full screen background
June 1, 2020

Marketing Students Get Chico Airport Rebranding off the Ground



 Sherry Miller, airport manager, speaks with students Tennyson Show and Paul Blackwood (left).

Sherry Miller, airport manager, speaks with students Tennyson Show and Paul Blackwood (left).

In early fall 2019, Airport Commissioner BT Chapman and the Chico Airport Commission chair, Mike Antolock, created an ad-hoc committee tasked with the rebranding and marketing of the Chico Municipal Airport (CMA). With the hope of regaining commercial air service to Chico in the near future, Chapman and Antolock approached finance and marketing professor Katie Mercurio with the unique opportunity to partner on the project.

Recognizing the value of this experience for students, Mercurio developed an experiential course, “Brand Strategy” (MKTG 498), which was specifically designed to target branding issues among local businesses. The 15-week long project began the first week of the spring 2020 term and consisted of nine student teams, each responsible for studying and reporting on specific marketing strategies of the airport.

Students were required to focus on key deliverables such as identifying prominent branding issues, including name and logo development, identifying brand values, as well as the construction of a marketing exploratory plan, which included surveying various focus groups.

“One set of student groups developed a new name, logo, and ‘Brand Book’ for the airport. A second set of groups worked on segmenting Butte County customers and articulating brand values for the airport’s external communications with the community and the press,” said Mercurio.

From left to right: Tayler Mackey, Mary Pekarek, Jessica Rodriguez, Cleo Hadid, and Tennyson Show listen to Brian Baldridge (not pictured), Chico Air Museum president, speak.

From left to right: Tayler Mackey, Mary Pekarek, Jessica Rodriguez, Cleo Hadid, and Tennyson Show listen to Brian Baldridge (not pictured), Chico Air Museum president, speak.  

The project concluded with a final written report and PowerPoint presentation. Top teams were selected to present their findings to the Chico City Council in person, however, due to COVID-19, presentations were conducted via Zoom. The airport commission will later decide which marketing direction they will choose. 

Antolock stated, “We identified what we thought were the best reports, and we will submit those to the full commission. Our goal is to condense the really good ideas from all the reports to help the airport commission present a recommendation to the Chico City Council for a branding campaign of Chico Municipal Airport.”

Antolock spoke on behalf of Chapman and himself, saying they were impressed with the quality of work the students presented, and that the reports exceeded their expectations “to identify market and branding schemes and design.”

“This has been my greatest pleasure since becoming an airport commissioner for Chico,” Antolock said.

BT Chapman, Chico Airport commissioner, discusses details with Cleo Hadid (left), Stephanie Macias (middle, red hat), and Jessica Rodriguez (right).

BT Chapman, Chico Airport commissioner, discusses details with Cleo Hadid (left), Stephanie Macias (middle, red hat), and Jessica Rodriguez (right).

Mercurio said the students’ completed work was comparable to the levels seen from top brand strategy classes at MBA programs around the world, and the impact of their unique experience, plus having to adjust to limitations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, would be seen and felt throughout their careers and lives.

“After the onset of COVID 19 in California, the students have continued to astound me.  They created virtual focus groups, sent out thousands of studies to North State California residents, and contacted small municipal airports around the country to employ best practices as they work on the project,” she said. “Many of these first-generation students have expressed the significance of this project as an experience they can convey as they seek employment and prestigious internships in this difficult time”. 

Marketing student Ezequiel Garcia said being able to participate in the CMA rebranding project meant a lot personally because it is the kind of work he aspires to do professionally.

“As an undergrad there are few opportunities within our academic curriculum to apply our marketing skills outside the scope of personal sales,” Garcia said. “It was a unique opportunity to work alongside the professionals at CMA to establish a new image for an entity that carries tremendous weight in our community. . . .This was an unparalleled learning experience, and I am excited to make this a point of discussion as I enter the job market.” 


Lorin Husa
California State University, Chico
College of Business
530-898-6272