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Connecting Your Brand to the HBCU Experience with Audio

Lauren Godwin, Specialist, Audience and Culture MarketingOct 10, 2023

Looking to connect with Black audiences? Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) are hubs of Black culture, nurturing and developing the minds, souls, and spirits of Black college students. The HBCU experience is unlike any other and introduces young adults to the diversity within Black culture and sometimes elements of their true selves. Four in 10 Black college graduates were educated at an HBCU in some capacity, making these institutions great spaces to connect with the Black community.

The Soundtrack of the Best Time of Our Lives

So, what does audio have to do with Black audiences and HBCUs? Well, can you imagine college days without a soundtrack with you as you prepare for the day, walk to class, study in the dorm, or hang with friends? No matter how many years go by, that time and those songs are with you—evoking memories and making you feel like a college kid again. 

We talked to some of our SiriusXM and Pandora HBCU alumni about their time in college and the music that defined their experiences to explore the impact of both on audiences and opportunity for brands.

School Daze & Songs That Play

HBCU alumni like Eric White, Associate Director, Legal Affairs, Joshua “J 1” Raiford, Vice President of Music Programming, and Daija Green, Associate, Brand and Consumer Marketing all share the love of Black culture. And though they come from very different backgrounds and are in different stages of their lives, they share the HBCU experience and fond memories of the music from that time.

From urban music enthusiasts to BIPOC creators, your brand can tap into the power of music and connect with Black listeners when they’re young and full of hope, or just coming into their own, or when they’re successful and established. And with the SiriusXM Streaming Network, advertisers can reach a precise Black affinity audience no matter where they are in their cultural journey.

Moments that Stay

HBCUs each have their own individual personalities, and each offers a unique experience for the students that attend. From freshman year to a 50-year graduation reunion, members of the HBCU community cherish and take pride in their alma maters. Take it from Digital Content Producer and recent grad, Jasmine LeCesne.

HBCU Experience - Jasmine LeCesne
  • Platinum Song in College: “Yosemite” by Travis Scott 

  • Unique HBCU Experience: Spelbound and Founders Day

  • Favorite Part of the HBCU Experience: Walking under the arch at the Founders Day celebration

Our college days stay with us our entire lives, and music can transport us there any time. Pandora’s HBCU Dream to Be station brings the HBCU experience to life through audio, highlighting hits that go platinum on HBCU campuses. From Soul Food Friday in the cafe and the pep rally to the tailgate and D9 strolling on the yard, HBCU students and alumni are able to relive their HBCU experience. With a sponsored station on Pandora, your brand can meet this audience in a space that feels like home.

Safe Spaces for the Black Community

For many people, college creates an environment where they are able to explore parts of themselves and the world around them that they could’ve never imagined. HBCUs allow Black people to do so in a space that feels safe and fully embraces every facet of their personalities and culture. Aubrey Rembert, Staff Scientist at Pandora remembers this feeling well.

Memorable Song: "It’s Time 4 Da Perculator" by The Hit Crew

The HBCU Experience & Black Culture: “My experience at an HBCU the size of FAMU, with over 10K students (at the time), showed me that there is no monolithic ‘Black culture.’ That was really refreshing to me. What really united us was the ‘FAMU culture’ of excellence with caring.”

The HBCU Impact:

I turned down an acceptance and scholarship to Duke University to attend FAMU. Many of my friends and family thought I was crazy. The common response was ‘FAMU is not like the real world,’ which I learned was a euphemism for not the majority-white corporate work world. I’m SO glad I didn’t listen. They were right; the FAMU I attended was not the ‘real world.’ It was SO much better. I didn’t have lingering thoughts, such as ‘did this happen because I’m Black,’ about whether an accolade or criticism was earned. Which made it so much easier to focus on the work.

Aubrey RembertStaff Scientist at Pandora

The community, camaraderie, and confidence students get from attending HCBUs stay with them long after graduation. Many Black listeners turn to podcasts to dive deeper into their cultural experience in the same way they were able to on HBCU campuses. Our Black Storytellers Bundle allows advertisers to access a broad spectrum of podcasts in one go. Brands can elevate their connections with iconic shows such as The Read and The Friend Zone, accompanied by ad reads meticulously tailored for our Black audience.

An Experience Like No Other 

No matter when people attend an HBCU, no life experience will ever compare to the moments on campus and with friends. Many alumni have very fond memories of their college days and strong ties to the sounds and pulse of campus life during their undergraduate experience. Hear it from Danielle Brogdon, Senior Specialist, Brand and Multicultural Marketing.

HBCU Experience - Danielle Brogdon
  • Song That Takes You Back: “Dreams and Nightmares” by Meek Mill 

  • Best HBCU Memory: When Drake popped up on campus

  • Favorite Part of the Experience: Working at the student radio station

Hip hop, rap, and R&B are wildly popular music genres on HBCU campuses—and artists know it. From artists like Drake and 21 Savage surprising students with performances to Summer Walker making her HBCU performance debut at the #1 HBCU in the nation, these campuses give Black music artists a platform to truly connect to their fans. On Pandora, R&B is the top genre for Black audiences with hip hop following right behind. Brands can align themselves to our multitude of hip hop and R&B stations to further connect to these listeners. 

Home Away From Home

Life, especially as a young adult, is not always sunshine and rainbows. HBCU students are able to lean on each other and can turn to their favorite inspirational songs or podcasts to help get them through tough times. Audio also can serve as an outlet and escape, accompanying campus events like tailgates and homecoming. Senior Sales Executive, Kelly Mayfield remembers her HBCU days well.

HBCU Experience - Kelly Mayfield
  • Song to Get Through Tough Times: “More than I can Bear” by Kirk Franklin

  • Standouts During Recent Visits: Renovations and new buildings popping up

  • HBCU Review: I could not ask for a better experience.

Homecoming is one of the most magical time of the year for HBCU students, alumni, and families. All generations come together to celebrate their beloved institutions through events, football games, music, food, and more! SiriusXM and Pandora are proud to be involved in the homecoming experience of thousands of students. With our Homecoming takeovers, we connect to students and alumni through pop-up events, concerts, and engaging brand activations.

Tap into the Power and Spirit of the HBCU Experience

From music, to scholarship, to some of the biggest social movements and events in Black history, HBCUs are a staple in Black culture. Straight from the mouths of Pandora & SiriusXM employees, you’ve learned more about HBCUs and the HBCU experience—and how audio it is integral to it.

Reach out to our Fluency team to learn more about how your brand can connect with HBCU campuses, students, and alumni on our platforms. Let’s talk.


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