• RockBox

RockBox update: 2021 - When are students back and what is the footfall?

Updated: Jan 21

Happy New Year and thank you for giving this update a click. This article aims to inform our clients on timelines for our OOH networks - on campus, student pubs and music venues during 2021. The below insight is based on feedback from our partners in universities and music venues and is a broad outline of the consensus. Individual locations may see it differently, or are yet to decide.

Up to now the situation has been fluid and we have adapted our booking terms to allow clients to respond in real time and not face penalties for moving or cancelling bookings. We hope we can all finally see some light at the end of the tunnel now, and propose the below as the most likely scenarios pending any drastic changes in the pandemic or Government policy.

Mid to late February 2021 - Footfall 10% to 20%

Originally the Government planned for students to safely return to campus around this date. This is now unlikely in any significant numbers. We anticipate a limited return of some face to face courses with some of our partner sites remaining closed. We do have some campus options still available by location, but speak to your rep for exact details.

Easter 2021 - Footfall circa 50%

After Easter we should see a much larger return to campus with encouragement from the Government and universities for a safe return. Many students will return for the summer term and the exam season up to August. Footfall may be a lot higher depending on the situation at the time, for now we are planning to a conservative scenario for lower footfall and a continuation of blended learning. We saw in 2020 that blended learning did not necessarily mean students’ unions were empty, in fact many along with library spaces became central hubs for study and provided an option for students to escape from their accommodation hubs.

Easter 2021 Student Pubs - Footfall 25% to 50%

We expect these to start re-opening in local Tier conditions by the Easter weekend in line with the national re-opening of hospitality.

Campus Summer break July and August 2021

Here we would hope to see a staggered return of our Music Venue sites along with a return to 100% footfall across our Student Pub sites. We are now actively looking for partners that would want to make the most of this bounce back period when other OOH options may still have limited availability. It’s going to be a huge summer of live music in venues and it’s a great opportunity for brands to engage this audience.

September 2021 - Footfall 100% across all formats

This is the Freshers period on campus where we expect to see a return to 2019 footfall levels and business as usual. We are selling this period at a discount for now with fully flexible terms.

  • 700,000 first years arrive on campus, over 2 million students return

  • We expect social and experiential campaigns to be super charged this this year after almost a full year out, this will create a lot of noise and clutter. Using OOH can really help with brand recognition and drive all other metrics.

  • First student loan paid, many students have financial independence for the first time and lifelong consumer trends are formed.

Clients that are planning for these dates now are getting the best rates and availability. We strongly encourage early bookings, especially on any paper formats as availability is already starting to reduce.


Black Friday has seen a huge increase with students over lockdown and this is now a key period for upgrading phones, laptops and tech in 2nd and 3rd years. 1st years still tend to pre plan and buy in summer or leave it last minute to September. We also have seen November sales come into its own in the travel space and expect this to increase for summer 2022 bookings.

November to February

Our own research highlighted this as a key period when over 60% of 1st and 2nd year students plan their student accommodation for next September. If you are planning for a property client your key window is here and this can be more effective than trying to compete with every other brand over Freshers in September.


Students are on campus in large numbers until the middle of the month. This is a great time to form new domestic travel behaviour and offer them deals for the visit home and a return back to campus in January.

January 2022 – ReFreshers

Students again return to campus in the first week of the month. This period is much like September with introductory deals and top up offers around the time their second loan is paid.

  • Traditionally and more so in 2022 this will be a key period for booking travel and events for the summer such as music festivals and live arena shows.

  • Our research indicated quite a large increase in short haul travel demand from students. This does not replace the traditional backpacking longer haul trips popular with 3rd years, but it’s worth noting that there is a huge market for European beach and city breaks.

We are currently conducting several large scale student surveys, if you have a specific question or info that you would like for pitch decks please let us know and we will try to facilitate if possible.

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