Branding to Reach the Top

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Branding to Reach the Top

A group of Top Branding TV participants whose work has been documented on YouTube. (VBR)
A group of Top Branding TV participants whose work has been documented on YouTube. (VBR)
Vanessa Sarabia’s background in the media business prepared her to start Top Branding TV. (VBR)
Vanessa Sarabia’s background in the media business prepared her to start Top Branding TV. (VBR)

Years spent in the media business made clear to Vanessa Sarabia that there is no lack of abundant young talent looking to make their mark, if only someone would give them a chance.

Sarabia has a deep background in the media business that includes photography, magazines, event promotions and production of commercials. She used those platforms of experience to create a niche business that would connect to young talent in a media world they understand.

The result is Top Branding TV, a business that mixes elements of reality television with marketing and advertising packaging to build portfolios for her aspiring young participants. Top Branding takes in recent college graduates in broadcasting, marketing, advertising and graphic design. They are young, enthusiastic, creative and eager to show what they know – and can do.

Sarabia’s concept is to put the participants in teams with the diverse skills needed to create marketing and advertising campaigns for local businesses. The teams will eventually compete against each other in the manner of TV reality shows, going before judges in presenting proposals and getting critiqued, with winners advancing to the next round.

The teams also have to sell themselves to businesses, pitching their proposals after interviewing business owners, who then pick the team they want after video presentations are made to them and judges have weighed in on the productions. Each team is assigned a mentor from the business world to guide them through the process and offer feedback on their creative productions.

“They’re improving their skills,” Sarabia said of Top Branding’s participants. “Many of them are pretty young and have not had much experience in the business world.”

Top Branding TV participants meet with a client as they work on a proposal. (VBR)
Top Branding TV participants meet with a client as they work on a proposal. (VBR)

The Top Branding teams seek to boost the brands and market presence of local businesses. If businesses accept one of the proposals, Top Branding charges for the services provided, which include social media strategies, videos, website development and graphics work. The participants are not charged for being on a Top Branding team and participating in the program.

“We see them grow and develop,” Sarabia said of the participants. “We’re very proud of the work they do.”

Sarabia has fashioned the work done by the teams into seasons, mimicking television programming on Top Branding’s YouTube channel. The videos feature the participants, their work and discussions with judges and business owners. The judges come from the academic and business world and can be seen on the YouTube videos offering the participants constructive criticism and asking probing questions to test team members.  

Team members have a weekly assignment and must complete it on Mondays before meeting with the judges on Wednesdays for critiques and feedback. Each team has its own name, such as Arrow Glass Agency and Team Top Branding, visiting local businesses to sell their proposals. Local businesses that participated in season one of Top Branding’s programming were Glam Squad Hair & Make Up Artists, The Queen’s Gallery, Glitz & Glamour, Earth Born Market and Backyards Unlimited.

“I think Ms. Sarabia has some great ideas,” said Russon Holbrook, the owner of Earth Born Market. “She wants her contestants to succeed, and she wants the businesses they spotlight to succeed.”

For the team that succeeds, there is a $2,500 cash reward for the team leader – and possibly a job offer.

Local businesses and governmental entities have hired Top Branding participants after seeing their work. Sarabia is looking forward to season two of Top Branding programming, with castings at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, South Texas College and at the Mission Economic Development Corporation, where Sarabia offices her business.

“Participants tell us how much they’ve grown and learned,” Sarabia said. “That makes our work and efforts worthwhile.”

Ricardo D. Cavazos is a journalist and business executive who has over 30 years of experience as a reporter, editor and publisher and is currently managing allied health schools in the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo. Working for Freedom Communications, Cavazos served as editor of The Monitor for eight years and was publisher of The Brownsville Herald for 14 years. He also served as publisher of the Valley Morning Star for one year and launched two Spanish-language publications - El Nuevo Heraldo and El Extra. He is an Edinburg native currrently living in Harlingen.

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