Drake, the chart-topping rapper, visited the campus.
Students and the university’s public-relations arm had been asking him for months to stop by when his Summer Sixteen tour came to Des Moines.
During his concert Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Arena, in Des Moines, Drake the rapper donned a Drake University basketball jersey and a custom-made letter jacket, and gave shout-outs to the college in between songs. And after the show, Drake headed out of the arena, wearing college gear, to finally pay the college visit.
Around 2 a.m. Wednesday, Drake walked around campus and visited two sorority houses, Kappa Kappa Gamma and Kappa Alpha Theta, said Jarad Bernstein, director of public relations and media management.
Though many students didn’t catch the impromptu visit, it was well-documented on the artist’s Instagram account, @champagnepapi, and was a resounding victory for Drake’s small public-relations shop, which helped boost the cheeky, student-led #BringDrakeToDrake campaign.
How did a college with about 5,000 students manage to get one of North America’s biggest rappers on campus? Persistence.
In 2009, before his third mixtape “So Far Gone” made it big, Drake was interviewed by The Dog 94.1 FM, the university’s radio station and scheduled a visit to the Des Moines campus. But in between the radio interview and the visit, the rapper skyrocketed in popularity and canceled his visit, Mr. Bernstein said.
A few months later students began using the hashtag #BringDrakeToDrake intermittently to encourage the rapper to visit, Mr. Bernstein said. It wasn’t until Drake announced his Summer Sixteen tour, this spring, with a tour stop in Des Moines, that the university got involved.
In May the college released a statement littered with nods to the rapper’s lyrics asking Drake to come to campus during his tour. It must have struck a chord because about four months ago the college scored a coveted follow from the rapper’s Instagram account.
Thalia Anguiano, the Student Government president, said she met with administrators over the summer to figure out how to best get the rapper’s attention and harness student engagement. After the meeting Ms. Anguiano told classmates, “If we show enough engagement, there might be a possibility of Drake stopping by campus.”
Ms. Anguiano, a senior who’s studying law, politics and society, and public relations, organized a group of students to make a music video to a cover of Drake’s songs, “One Dance,” again hoping to lure the star to campus. And students kept plugging away with the #BringDrakeToDrake hashtag.
A few days before the concert, university communications added more fuel to the fire with the help of the Drake Shake app, Mr. Bernstein said. The Apple and Android app adds a random image of the rapper to uploaded photos.
“Maybe he’s going to campus, maybe he’s not. Even if he doesn’t this will be a lot of fun, just putting these photos out there,” Mr. Bernstein said. “We even got our president to tweet something about it.”
The university posted two photos on its Instagram account of Drake on campus and captioned them, again asking him to come to campus. The rapper dropped a hint on one of the photos, commenting, “I’mma pull up on ya.”
On Tuesday, the day of the concert, the campus turned into a Drake-filled frenzy, as students anticipated the star’s potential visit, Ms. Anguiano said. Students gathered in front of the library from 11 a.m. to about 3 p.m., thinking the rapper would come to one of the most prominent spots on campus. When campus public-safety cars drove by, Ms. Anguiano said students speculated that Drake was riding in them.
After a few hours went by, Ms. Anguiano said her heart sank when she realized Drake would not be stopping by during the day and she wasn’t going to the concert. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen campus so sad in the four years I’ve been here,” Ms. Anguiano said.
That night, after a late study session in library, Ms. Anguiano said she lit up when she saw Drake’s Instagram posts on her timeline. She said she texted friends that Drake was on campus, but most of them were sleeping and woke up to the surprise.
For the university, #BringDrakeToDrake wasn’t really about Drake the musician, Mr. Bernstein said. It was about engaging with its student body — and a whole new audience of prospective students.
“His primary social-media vehicle is Instagram,” Mr. Bernstein said. “Having that kind of exposure to the size of an audience — we know that many of his fans are at the age where they are considering where they might want to go to school. You can’t pay for that kind of advertising.”
“Any time that you can be associated with a performer that has that kind of a following, it’s a nice linkage,” said Mr. Bernstein, who added that he arranged for Drake to wear the university jersey during his show.
After Mr. Bernstein got home from the concert, Drake’s wardrobe designer sent him a text message with a link to the photos. Then, after Drake posted his letter-jacket photos, Mr. Bernstein said the university’s Instagram account was gaining about 500 followers per hour.
“I think we’re probably going to be by the end of the day the most followed Instagram account of any university in this country,” Mr. Bernstein said. “It’s just more and more exposure for the university reaching an audience that we generally wouldn’t have access to otherwise.”