88% of UK students go to Freshers Fair for freebies

Freshers Week is synonymous with good times, a good amount of money spent, and a bounty of freebies. During Freshers Week, 88% of the 18-24s Voxburner surveyed are mainly attracted by the freebies handed out during their welcome week to university. Items like vouchers for cheap and free food, branded stationery, and other gifts from brands are sought out by young students assimilating into their new life of extreme budgeting and new-found independence.

These bright-eyed students are after freebies that will last, or provide for their well-being. This single week is a great opportunity for marketers to reach their target audience, but carelessness can come at a cost. We asked our Voxburner Academy – a panel of 16-24s – what stood out for them during their Freshers Week experience, good or bad.


Bars and pubs around the student area gave out discount cards that lasted for the whole year, and deals like free meals and cheap drinks during Freshers. Also, little things you would normally just throw away such as lanyards, keyrings, mugs and bags were useful when you had just moved in.


I loved the Freshers Fair. Free pizza, chocolate, condoms, drinks, and loads of discount coupons. What more could a student want? Although some of the people selling discount cards were a bit aggressive, and resulted in lots of people buying pointless cards that did the same job as our university ID.


In my first year, one stall was giving out pasta strainers. That was probably one of the best freebies I had. Food vouchers are always handy, as well as planners and diaries.


The only useful things I remember were free pens, a frisbee and free pizza from Domino's and Pizza Hut, I think. Going around numerous times was amazing, and we also got a tonne of free Domino's vouchers which were always greatly appreciated. Lots of rubbish given out though if I remember, and I wasn't too impressed by someone trying to shove a bible in my hand.

An outstanding amount of Academy members focused on food, and the bountiful amount of free pizza offered on the day. What stands out for these students are gifts that understand the plight of student life – the need for cheap food, healthy or not. Vouchers on offer were equally important, offering students the chance to pick up worthwhile discounts for the future. These giveaways are commonplace during Freshers Week, yet still an expectation and a success.

Whereas the barrage of stationery – synonymous with any expo or conference – is appreciated, it’s the items that have longer-lasting use that stay with students longer. It's the pasta strainer, the pack of playing cards and cleaning cloths for glasses that stand out for students. This allows brands outside of the food and beverage industry to offer something students need, while also getting brand exposure.

Aggressiveness from stall members is the biggest annoyance at events. This is also not new, but a good insight to not pester passersby with your wares, as it tarnishes the experience as a whole, and your brand will be linked to that particular experience.


Marketers have to decide what sort of business they want to build – a voucher-based branded business, or an equity-based branded business. Students will always have a proclivity for pricing, vouchers, and discounts, but it is the job of marketing to help them see beyond that. Companies don't need to hire marketers to have vouchers handed out in events – anyone can do that. Marketers need to use these events to get these consumers to experience their brands in novel ways which the students appreciate, and which don't devalue the brand image.

The presence of brands at events goes noticed, and if dealt with correctly, will go a long way in giving credibility to the young demographic. Students know not everything can be free, but it’s a bad time to act cheap.

Things to take away

  • If you’re in the food and drink business, you won’t be able to convince students with just a measly ‘5% off’ offer, especially when free pizza and chicken is being handed out. Get some free samples in there too. These are students at their weakest – inexperienced with budgeting, and needing a brand to support them during this time. It might be costly to be giving away so much, but it's also the best time to build on your brand awareness and image.

  • Can you find out what societies are at the university you’re going to? Make juggling balls and give them all to the juggling society. The jugglers may not get many signups, but their giveaways to passersby will have your brand in their pockets. Create knitting kits for the knitting society. How about making a pocket-sized card with useful phrases in another language to start conversations, for example: “Where is the closest IKEA?”

  • Of course the demand for freebies during Freshers Week focuses on physical items, but do not forget that there’s potential for brands to be on the ground educating and informing. Handing out helpful information about budgeting and insurance is one thing, but making an interactive stall is equally beneficial. Show students how your product or service will directly help them in their lives. Sometimes the best way is to show how easy it is.

Find out more about student marketing at our upcoming events YMS18 NYC and YMS19 LDN.

Image Credit: SUARTS (Attribution / No Derivative Works)