But no rep is better connected than Baackes, president of NYU's Inter-Residence Hall Council, a powerful student organization that advocates on behalf of NYU students to the administration and organizes major inter-dorm events. It's a position that links her to resident advisers across campus, something she can tap to promote Nike activities at the school, including a series of fitness classes the brand has created for NYU women at the tony David Barton gym. "I told all my residents about it," says junior Delaney Simmons, an RA in the first-year residence Third North Hall. "And they all went."
But even fashion models and Baackes cannot guarantee a large turnout to an event—much less a three-mile fun run on a Friday night in November. That's why the reps convene weekly in the Chelsea Market offices for status meetings of MKTG, a marketing firm that works in conjunction with Nike. There they regularly check in about the tally of "Likes" for the Rebel Run Facebook page, which features photos of campus reps clad in Nike, occasional Nike promotional videos, and details about upcoming events. At a September meeting, MKTG representatives observed that 230—or virtually all—of the "Likes" belonged to NYU students, after which the Columbia and Fordham campus reps redoubled their efforts to reach out to their friends, helping push the count to more than 500 by the third week in October.
"I felt bad at times, like I was overextending myself to my friends—add this page and whatnot," says NYU junior Gabrielle Sena, a former roommate of Baackes who worked as a Nike rep last fall.
Bednarz says he feels no qualms about inviting his friends to like the Rebel Run page, which he often does by sending Facebook chat messages and asking them to "take four seconds to just 'like' this for me."
"They feel obligated to," he says.
Many, like Rezso, say they don't mind being asked to like the page, which doubles as an invitation to the Rebel Run. An avid runner and friend of Terrien's as well as Bednarz's, Rezso says he's aware that both are being paid by Nike, and he doesn't care that the Rebel Run is a sponsored event. "Any opportunities I get to run, especially with other people, are great," he says. "In general, NYU is an incredibly unathletic school."
But other students say they resent the presence of campus reps, something they view as a commercial intrusion on campus life. A Tisch junior, who asked that his name not be used in this story, recalls working as a production manager for a student show when the play's producer asked him if NYU's Red Bull rep, a friend of the producer's, could distribute the drink at the show. "I said, 'No, of course not. We're not allowed to,'" he says, explaining that commercial activity wasn't allowed by the theater. "I actually ended up showing up on one of the nights of the show, and she was out there handing out Red Bulls. I approached her, and I said, 'You can't do this.'"
NYU first-year student Stephanie Bow was surprised to learn that NYU's Victoria's Secret PINK representatives had hosted a free Zumba class in the basement dance studio of Third North, her dorm. "They didn't have any posters up about it," she says.
That might be because of an NYU housing guideline that states that "salespersons, advertising distributors, or other persons not members of the University community are prohibited from soliciting or distributing literature in University facilities at any time."
And what about salespersons and advertising distributors who are also students? Campus reps weren't around in 1977, the year the guideline was last revised.
"It sounds cool, but then when you start to think about it, if companies start doing that frequently, using our space—I don't like the idea," Bow says.
Adds Bow's friend and fellow Third North resident first-year student Stephanie Habib: "It's one thing if it's on the street, but this is where we live, and to have a company coming in to where live and try to inundate us with advertising, even in the basement—I think it's inappropriate."
"There is a rule that might have been broken," says Delaney Simmons, the same RA who helped promote the Nike classes. "It's a little bit of a gray area."
It's a gray area that, in other areas, NYU is allowing companies to exploit. Victoria's Secret uses the iconic NYU torch in the NYU VS PINK logo on its Facebook page, and Nike freely uses the school's initials in its name of its new NYU Nike Run Club.
That's fine by Audrey White, who took part last spring in a Nike-sponsored event for NYU students at a venue on Union Square West that featured a workout led by Rihanna's personal trainer.
"I don't really know how to explain it," says White, a former NYU cheerleader, of the appeal of the Rihanna event and other sponsored events she has attended—including the Nike-run David Barton classes—which she says have "most definitely" enriched her experience of campus life. She contrasts brand-sponsored events with NYU's Tear It Up! events, which aim to bring together students to cheer on NYU athletes. "When you get there, most of the people, they aren't there for the game," she says. "They're just there to be there. You don't meet people. You don't really make friends. You don't really feel any type of connection to any of the other people there."