Purpose, Strategy & Culture

Introducing Reese's University: Where The Cups Are Overflowing With Potential

Reese’s University is a brand-new initiative that wraps the spirit of college around the No. 1 selling candy brand in the United States.
Ryan Riess
Vice President, Brand Strategy and Creative Development

Key Takeaways:

  • The Reese’s brand is bringing the enthusiasm for the college experience to Reese’s fans with the launch of Reese’s University.
  • The Reese’s U initiative is focused on delighting and engaging consumers in a more immersive brand world.
  • Reese’s U (or RU) promises to have many surprises for the diehard Reese’s fans over the next year. The initial launch has included an incredibly in-depth website, a line of RU lifestyle wear, and several social postings encouraging prospective students to “find their passion” at RU.

There are few things people feel as strongly about (and are as attached to) as their alma mater. And now, Reese’s fans can enroll at a their very own university that’s accepting 99.9% of applicants—a university where students come first, and chocolate and peanut butter come second…or maybe they’re all tied for first.

Reese’s University—based in “Round Ridge, Pennsylvania”—is a brand-new, ambitious initiative that wraps the spirit and fandom of college around the No. 1 selling candy brand in the United States, Reese’s.

Reese’s University has been in development for over nine months, and is ready to begin enrollment with an in-depth Reese’s University website that invites Reese’s fans to submit an application to join the “Fighting Cuppies” (and their larger college community, known as “Peanut Butter Nation”). Reese’s University enrollees will receive special communications, offers and experiences from the brand in the coming months. 

Reese’s University is our way to reward consumers and fans who have shown how much passion they have for the Reese’s brand. We wanted to engage with them in a new and different way than traditional campaigns and loyalty programs. 

Reese’s University is poised to become a household name this winter, with several big promotional moments during some of college sports’ fans favorite occasions in early 2022. You can expect to see Reese’s University in commercials, on select Reese’s packaging and in some very unexpected places very soon.

And we didn’t forget about swag, either; Reese’s University is creating some awesome branded merchandise that is now available in the student bookstore. While merch is cool and all the rage, the intent behind Reese’s University isn’t just to sell products and merchandise—it’s to create a parallel between people’s love of their favorite colleges, and their love for Reese’s

Making Reese’s more than just a sponsor

In my role with the C-Sweet Studio—our in-house marketing agency here at Hershey—I understand firsthand that everything Reese’s touches just seems somehow more fun, engaging, and exciting than it was before. That’s the magic of Reese’s!

That’s why, when tasked in early 2021 with developing a Reese’s fall football promotion, my team and I wanted to use that magic to develop a more meaningful relationship between Reese’s and college sports. 

I’ve personally worked on the Reese’s brand for nearly half of my 12 years at Hershey, including engagements working on Reese’s Football and Reese’s March Madness. Over so much history with Reese’s, one thing my teams and I always struggled with—and we’ve tried resolving it in a bunch of different ways—was how do we make Reese’s more than just a sponsor of college sporting events? Lots of brands have a very clear connection to the game (like Nike or Gatorade that are in on the action, or beer brands because they're associated with watching the sport). But the reality is that Reese’s role is not as well defined.

In the past, we’ve resolved the issue by running campaigns that tie into elements of the game (such as the 'Winners Go for Two' concept). 

But this time around, my team and I wanted something really truthful in terms of how Reese’s relates to college sports. Great creative comes from an honesty that consumers immediately recognize. We found our truth in the parallel between the passion and enthusiasm and love that people have for their college—from the band to the colors to the logos to the mascot…and the love they have for the Reese’s brand.

The idea for Reese’s University ultimately came from us taking a slight step back: we focused on our consumers not simply sports. We asked “How can we satisfy the Reese’s consumer?” and “What would a consumer who really loves Reese’s want?”

A consumer that loves Reese’s as a brand would love to go to Reese’s University and be immersed in a Reese’s experience. Plus, they would love to get a newsletter from Reese’s, would love to wear a sweatshirt from Reese’s and would love to get coupon codes from Reese’s, too.

An authentic experience of the Reese’s brand

Developing Reese’s University was a unified effort for C-Sweet Studio that involved a ton of collaboration. From developing what the visual world of Reese’s University looked like to creating a mascot to bringing the concept in-store, it’s been a true best-in-class example of internal and external partners working seamlessly together.

Making the initiative impactful and true to the brand also meant making it feel as real as possible. 

Videos were shot on location at two real college campuses, for example, and our team has developed a thoughtful social media presence for Reese’s University that spans both Instagram and TikTok. The Instagram handle will showcase more traditional university content, such as scenes around campus with recruiting messages, whereas the TikTok account will feature things like “student” takeovers, where individuals will highlight their experiences as Reese’s University students.

It’s our hope that viewers of the content will ask themselves “Wait, is this real?” Then we want to give them a second moment where they realize “OK this can't be real, but I sure wish it was—because I would love to take a class about the science of chocolate or peanut butter. I would love to learn about the iconic Reese’s shape. I would love to take a cooking class about using Reese’s.”

And learning more about what consumers would love to see from Reese’s University is the next phase of the evolution.

Ultimately, we’re so excited to finally share Reese’s University with the world. Over the last nine months of working on this, my team and I have really gotten to know the idea and let it grow and blossom; it’s been a true team effort across our organization, and we’re really proud of it. We know it'll grow and blossom even more as we get feedback from retailers and (most importantly) our loyal Reese’s customers.

Almost as exciting as going off to college. 

To learn more and enroll at Reese’s University today, go to reesesuniversity.com.