It’s an unspoken rule that a fraternity party has to have a theme — no matter how meaningless, strange, or straight-up offensive it may be. But instead of a Hawaiian luau-themed bash, imagine dancing the night away next to a wall plastered with the canary-yellow Bumble logo.
Bumble and Tinder are sponsoring parties for Greek houses in the University of Texas system, the Houston Chronicle reports, having fraternities sign exclusive contracts to signify themselves as a Bumble or Tinder house.
One fraternity member described these partnerships to the Chronicle as “mutually beneficial.” Upon signing the contract, he said, a house is guaranteed a specific amount of money, with the potential for cash bonuses depending on the number of app downloads linked to a hosted event. (The frat member did not provide specifics.)
According to a Tinder spokesperson, the company “does not offer cash incentives to organizations based on signups or require a Tinder account for a person to enter an event.” Tinder partners with “vetted on-campus organizations, including some fraternities,” which comprised around 10 percent of Tinder’s brand events over the past school year, the spokesperson said.
Bumble did not respond to a request for comment from Vox. The companies also declined to specify to the Chronicle how involved they are on individual campuses.
Students from other universities — Northwestern, Tulane, and Oklahoma — also told the Chronicle they’ve attended similar functions. For these parties, the sponsoring app covers production costs and offers branded swag, in addition to plastering the party space (typically a frat house) with its unmistakable logo. In turn, some fraternities reportedly require attendees (single or taken) to show their dating profiles for party entry.
This strategy isn’t new — especially not for Tinder, which was founded by students at the University of Southern California. In fact, its co-founder Justin Mateen (an alumnus of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity) was inspired by frat party planning tactics when it came to popularizing the app. In September 2012, Mateen invited sorority sisters and fraternity brothers to a massive house party at his parents’ home. Their ticket in was to have the app downloaded.
“We penetrated the Greek system,” Mateen told Fortune Magazine in 2016, emphasizing how much power and influence that system can have over a student body.
It’s a marketing ploy Tinder has tapped into since the beginning: Mateen told HuffPost in 2013 that the app targeted 10 college campuses for its debut and sought out “highly social” campus representatives, most of whom happened to be involved with Greek life. A Tufts University rep planned a Valentine’s Day frat party in 2013 that required the app download for entry (although the rep wasn’t paid for the event).
Years later, Greek life remains a dependable avenue to bring in thousands of potential Tinder and Bumble users. (A majority of users on both apps fall within the 18- to 29-year-old demographic, according to SurveyMonkey, and Tinder has said that more than half of its user base is between the ages of 18 and 24.)
Due to its collegiate startup roots, it’s not surprising that Tinder has kept much of its focus on college students. Bumble, its main competitor, has attempted to do the same (Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd was a former Tinder co-founder who sued the company for harassment and discrimination, as well as a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma in college). In recent years, they’ve found ways to cement their presence on campuses nationwide: Bumble has a Honey Ambassador program, which promises students “an invaluable marketing experience” hosting community events. Tinder launched the Tinder U feature in 2018 to make it easier for college students to connect with each other.
People are now more likely to meet their partners online instead of through in-person friends or family members. Still, live pop-up events and college ambassador programs are essential for what the apps call “community building.” In other words, Tinder and Bumble want to take up space in our daily, offline world. Fraternity parties are an effective way to lure a crowd of students who are looking to have a good time, and creating a dating profile requires little effort.
Tinder’s and Bumble’s embrace of frat culture has invited critiques — especially of the ethics behind monetizing parties that have historically been hostile spaces for women. But as long as college students are still seeking out casual hook-ups and romance online and offline, frat parties are a solid place to market to the masses.
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