Just because you aren’t being handed a Red Bull at each street corner at Yale doesn’t mean representatives don’t have a presence on campus. It just means they’re a little harder to find.
Sykes is one of a group of 45 representatives throughout the country working for Universal Music Group (UMG). Reps at state schools, she claims, definitely have an advantage. “[Students are] used to it and expecting it,” says Sykes. “[Yalies] are really wary of being marketed at. People don’t want to feel manipulated.” (A reaction, no doubt, rooted in experiences like the extracurricular bazaar.) Sykes tries to keep the label of “College and Lifestyle Marketing Representative” as far away as possible from her own identity to make the events and the artists they promote as authentic as possible.
UMG’s national network provides one model of college campus branding. A “brand embassy” exists just across the street from Saybrook—Jack Wills, while closer to home, also has a campus presence in Ethan Karetsky, CC ’14.
Sporting Jack Wills attire, Instagramming promotions, and spreading the Jack Wills gospel are all Karetsky’s responsibilities. “It’s about breaking any sort of gap that might exist, and really connecting it to the Yale experience.” He does this through having an impressive party attendance record.
One of Sykes’ events was a pizza party at the Yale Farm. “We just…listened to the album. A lot of people came, and when they got there, they were like, ‘Why is this themed? Do you just really like the album?’” The fact that the event was not conspicuously connected to a brand allowed students to reserve judgments about the event being solely for marketing purposes. “This was much better than ‘Universal Music is on campus!’” Sykes elaborated. “People would just be like, ‘No, I don’t want to be sold something.’”
Sykes recently held an event last Sunday at the Morse-Stiles Crescent Theatre where Yale students watched a live streamed concert from the band Bastille at the iTunes Music Festival. Students could enter to win free merchandise and enjoy a band they may or may not have been familiar with. Entertainment and free stuff? I’m sold.