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Nothing can stop CreateAthon: 2021 event takes virtual approach to client needs

May 3, 2021

Posted in: News

By Zobia Nayyar, Communications Assistant

A picture of Createathon partipants on a laptop video conference call
CreateAthon 2021 goes virtual.

Spring marks the return of CreateAthon, an annual event where VCU advertising students come together to create logos, brochures, etc. for nonprofit organizations pro bono. This year, it will be done a little differently.

Usually, CreateAthon is a 24 hour event where students are together in one room, creating advertisements. It’s usually an in-person collaboration event so students can work together in their teams. Due to COVID-19 and its restrictions, the event has been moved virtually, causing the event to shift from one 24 period to three separate eight hour periods.

Advertising professor Jess Collins who leads CreateAthon believes this is the best approach when moving the event online, as it prepares students how to work efficiently in a short deadline in the future.

“There are going to be so many projects that pop up that are like, ‘let me see what you bring back in a day.’ This just gives students a chance to be in that environment so that when they do go look for jobs, or to work, that it's not an uncomfortable situation for them, that they've been there before,” Collins said.

Usually organizations pay thousands of dollars to get the advertising materials that CreateAthon produces, but students get to make a difference for these organizations that make a difference for other people. This year, the event will make advertisements for four nonprofit organizations: Collective 365, Frank Community Farm, Black Men Read and Shood.

Collective 365 is a group of individuals who come together to invest and celebrate Black and Brown communities. Frank Community Farm is a farm where individuals work and have access to different levels of job support, which allow workers to try jobs that may have been inaccessible to them in other settings. Black Men Read aims to improve education outcomes and inspire a love for reading with a focus on Black men and boys. Shood collects worn shoes and distributes them to the homeless population in Richmond, Va.

“We also look for very diverse organizations,” Collins said. “I always like to push my students outside of their comfort zone so that the target that they're looking at is something that's not completely familiar with their lives.”

Michelle Mead is currently interning for the class, as it is her second year with CreateAthon. She says the class is a great way for students to give back to the Richmond community, for advertising students to get to know one another, get real life experience working with clients and it builds students’ portfolios.

“Because it's [the CreateAthon class is] not required, all the students really, really want to be there,” Mead said. “All the students don't just want to be there to make great work, but we want to be there to make great work for these nonprofits, because they don't always get the opportunity to have pro bono work done for them.”

The students are split into two teams where they each present a brief to the client. The client chooses which brief to go with and the teams then join together to create the material the client wants. The first half of the class is spent preparing and competition, then the teams join together. The students spend the last four to five weeks going through client feedback.

MASC 467 Nonprofit Project Development is a class open to VCU students who have previously taken MASC 210 and MASC 380. This year CreateAthon will be held between March 29 and April 2.

“I think it’s one of our most real life classes in the Robertson school,” Collins said.