University managers have turned to the organisers of Comic Relief to learn the latest tricks of the marketing trade - a move that could see institutions team up with baked-bean manufacturers or beer brewers in a bid to attract more students.
Experts from Comic Relief, taking place this week, will tell delegates at the annual conference of Heist [formerly the Higher Education Information Services Trust] in May how to embrace "affinity marketing", where companies cross-promote their products to the same target audience.
Amanda Gregory, Heist's business development director, said: "Affinity marketing is the hottest thing around at the moment. It's about partnering with other organisations that have the same target customer base but are not competing. Comic Relief is the best example around."
"It is partnering a large number of organisations that take in its target customer market. For instance, when customers buy a box of Andrex tissues, 50p goes to Comic Relief," she added.
Universities could partner with a vast number of organisations that want to promote their products to students, Ms Gregory said. Companies that produce "fast-moving consumer goods" or anything in supermarkets, such as washing powder or tins of baked beans, are likely to be particularly interested.
Nicola Harrison, Comic Relief's schools and youth marketing officer, said there was huge potential for universities to use affinity marketing.
"We're very careful to target the right audience. We've been working with SUBtv [which provides plasma televisions in 104 universities] to run pub quizzes for students, and the company gives £1 to Comic Relief per event."