University student marketing agency celebrates 10 years of key support

A marketing agency devised by Birmingham City Business School’s Marketing Subject Group to provide its students with valuable work experience is celebrating its tenth anniversary, during which over 300 students and 50 organisations have benefited.

Posted 06 July 2022

BCU marketing students enjoying a trip as part of The Link marketing agency.

An agency that benefits businesses and students

The Link marketing agency was launched in 2012 by Nicola Gittins (previous Marketing Subject lead, now at University of Birmingham).

It was informed by the research of Dr Charlotte Carey, an Associate Professor in Digital Marketing and current Marketing Subject lead, who conducted research into emergent issues in enterprise education and sought to provide an entrepreneurial opportunity to students.

“The Link is an example of where employability and entrepreneurship combine,” says Charlotte, who also leads BCU’s Entrepreneurship research cluster.  

“It provides an innovative method of embedding entrepreneurship and employability through a live, student-led marketing communications agency.”

Working with West Midlands-based SMEs, startups and charities, the agency provides a mutually fulfilling relationship for both the student and the business, while helping keep staff connected with industry.

For example, businesses benefit by tapping into the contemporary skills and knowledge of BCU students to address their challenges, with some businesses crediting the agency for creating their first ever social media presences and campaigns.

Building skills, knowledge and experience

Since launching ten years ago, The Link has gone from strength to strength.

Now overseen by Associate Professor Emma Neale – who took charge of the agency in 2017 – the agency has helped over 50 businesses, from charities and local authorities to SMEs and entrepreneurs, on various projects.

Furthermore, it has assisted over 300 students with:

  • Numerous job opportunities
  • The chance to develop valuable soft skills, such as teamwork and presentation
  • The ability to apply their knowledge in practice by creating marketing plans, communication strategies and more
  • Insights into how entrepreneurship and small business manifests within their sector.

“The Link is run by students and provides them with the opportunity to engage with live briefs, given to them by organisations in and around Birmingham,” Emma explains.

“The students have key roles within the agency at both director and executive level.”

Students are rewarded for participation by being taken on trips to real agencies (in London/Birmingham) and an opportunity to network and get a feel for the real-life agency experience.

Developing new strategies and campaigns

This year, The Link has worked with a host of organisations, including Solihull Moors Football Club’s charity foundation and their campaign to promote women’s football.

The agency provided the club with recommendations for corporate partnership, conducted extensive market research, developed a marketing strategy and proposed a digital and social media campaign.

All of this resulted in increasing social engagement regarding the club’s foundation charities and sponsors of the team.

The agency also worked with fledgling startup Shacini, developing a marketing strategy that was well received.

“(The team have) provided me with such useful information for now and for the future,” they said. “When reading through their presentation, I was really impressed with the detail of (their) work and the content.”

Retrospective research to investigate impact

To mark ten years of The Link, a group of its academic mentors – Emma, Charlotte, plus Paul Radway, Jane Gosney and Stephen Raybould – are undertaking a research project to capture the agency’s impact on three different distinct groups – staff, students and graduates, and businesses.

“The Link was created in order to provide an entrepreneurial experience for students within the context of their discipline,” Charlotte explains.

“In this instance, this was running a marketing agency within the University, working with live businesses and supported by academic mentors.”

“This research will showcase our work, inform how we teach and work with businesses in the future, and add to the field of research exploring these areas.”

If you have ever benefitted from or participated in The Link and want to get involved in the research project, contact