Companies already give scholarships to highest-ranking students; a goodwill thing: the student gets a hand paying for education and the company's rep goes up a few notches with, not only the student, but whoever happens to be around when the scholarship is announced.
The decision to produce and
award a corporate scholarship is (I like to imagine) independent of the sales & marketing department. But they might want to get in on the action as well.
To be considered, a prospective sponsee(s) would be almost top of their class (ie: not the person that got the scholarship but close). If accepted, they would be required to sport company advertisements as their daily wear and accessories. Advertising would be in a passive manner: they wouldn't be company shills, at most give an infocard, and only if specifically requested to.
A typical list of expenses for the sponsoring company would include paying for tuition and books, making sure the sponsee is well equipped with enough t-shirts, jackets, belt-buckles and pens(don't distribute them, but if somebody borrows one, tell them they can keep it) and scheduling the sponsees attire.
To keep their sponsorship, sponsees are expected to do well academically and mirror company values in their personal appearance and deportment while on campus. Naturally the academic institution would have to okay the program: while not designed to be any more intrusive than normal branded clothing and promo items, the student is still basically somebody walking around with a sandwich board.
Imagine that you own a local store: for little more than the cost of tuition and books, a sizeable chunk of the student (and teacher) body of the local university will know what your store is, exactly where your store is (nice map printed on the back of the tee), and get advance notice of when your sales are happening.
If your target market includes college and university students, this is cheaper and more effective than using newspaper or broadcast media outlets. And a sponsorship makes the company look good even though its obviously more self-serving than a purely philanthropic scholarship.