According to the Guardian “Freshers’ week is an education in commercialism”:
…freshers’ fairs have come a long way from the commercial innocence of earlier years. They offer Britain’s businesses “the perfect opportunity for you to enlighten students to your products and services”, according to BAM Student Marketing. “Get face to face with your potential customers … student spending habits have not been developed at this stage, which is why the freshers’ fairs provide excellent potential for forming new customer relationships,” it adds.
Yes, there is more commercial activity than historically, but there really is so much more to it than this. For example, the University of Nottingham’s Students’ Union has a bit more on offer as the Freshers’ Fair site shows. Whilst there is still in many freshers’ weeks an undue emphasis on alcohol-fuelled activity, things are changing for the better although this remains the issue that newspapers generally focus on.
However, the Guardian also notes that:
Other universities run their own lucrative commercial arrangements at freshers’ fairs. Last year Oxford charged £12,000 for sponsorship and £2,000 for a standard stall at its fair, and £1,500 for a bag insert (plus £850 for your name on the bag).
This is more like “commercial innocence” – it seems to be an extremely good promotional deal for the companies concerned, offering huge exposure for very little money.