Director of marketing and sales brings stars to URI Ryan Center
The Good Five Cent Cigar
By: Lindsay Lorenz
02/29/08 - Ever wonder why University of Rhode Island students get discounts on tickets to events at the Ryan Center? Meet
Kara Russo, the Ryan Center's director of marketing and sales.
Russo, a bubbly brunette, works with promoters to attract people to the Ryan Center performances and events.
Russo came to the Ryan Center after spending three years at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence. She's been at URI
for more than eight years now.
Russo works for Global Spectrum, the company that manages the Ryan Center, and said she enjoys her job. "It's never
boring," she said.
And it certainly keeps her busy.
The cheerful marketing director has stacks of invoices and event information lining her desk, and her walls are bedecked
with dozens of posters from previous events that the venue hosted.
"It looks bad, but it's not," she said, laughing. " I know where everything is."
Speaking of posters, it's Russo who is responsible for designing the posters and distributing them around the area, on and
off campus. "There's a lot of day-to-day stuff like putting up posters," she explained. "But then there's also working events."
For Russo, working events can be exciting. They give her the opportunity to learn things about celebrities. "John Mayer spent
the whole day on the Internet when he was here," she said. Russo also mentioned that Bob Dylan, who has come to URI
three times, brings his own chef instead of using Dining Services. Comedian Bill Cosby needed to have three types of thin
crust pizza, she said.
During the year, Kara said she's definitely picked up some interesting tidbits about people who have come to the Ryan
But aside from rubbing elbows with celebs, she does everything from writing press releases, group sales, Internet
marketing and all kinds of advertising, which expands far beyond posters.
Russo also puts together speeches for radio and television ads. She said she sometimes has to fit her message into a
certain time length.
Russo often sits in her office with a timer and rehearses her messages. She said she sometimes gets raised eyebrows
from co-workers because of it. Once the ads are finished, she tunes into the radio or television to make sure everything
As for other advertising, she recently designed a billboard for a John McEnroe and Jim Courier tennis match. Russo
searched the Internet for a good image of a tennis ball, but had no luck. Instead she drove to the store, bought tennis balls
and took the pictures herself. "I must have taken about 60 or 70 pictures," she said.
Another big part of her job is group sales. Group sales works with different organizations, providing incentives for larger
groups to buy tickets.
She cited Sesame Street Live, a recent show the Ryan Center hosted, as a good example. In preparation for sales, Russo
reached out to daycare centers, knowing that the target audience is younger children. Special incentives like cheaper ticket
prices and freebies help, too.
Russo said it's important to know who the target audience is to make sales productive, especially when working with a
budget. She said budgets are usually a huge factor in event planning.
Working sometimes by herself and other times within limits set by promoters, Russo finds cost-effective ways of
Russo and her team's next project is the Harlem Globetrotter's visit. The famed group of basketball tricksters arranged an
ambassador to promote the show.
Russo and her two interns have been hanging posters in local supermarkets and places like the YMCA. They've also
coordinated the ambassador's appearance at the Warwick Mall and nearby schools, not to mention guest spots on radio
stations. In addition, they're offering half-price tickets for URI students and faculty members.
This is an easy workload for Russo, who is, at the moment, recovering from influenza. "We just got over a huge run of
shows," she said. "So it's a lot quieter over here."
In addition to planning all of the events, she must attend them, too. During these events, she works with the media, relaying
any filming or photography restrictions.
Russo said one of her additional duties is buying gifts for the performers. McEnroe and Courier both received URI
sweatshirts with their names screen-printed on the back.
When Bob Dylan took the Ryan Center's stage for the first time over a decade ago, he requested a URI sweatshirt, which he
wore the next night when he was touring at Harvard University.
Russo said the paperwork that comes with the job can be tedious because she has to log numerous details for each event.
She said although this part of the job is time-consuming, the records come in handy as comparisons and markers for
But aside from the business aspect, Russo is no stranger to helping out in the community. In fact, the opportunity to do so
is one of her favorite parts of the job.
She recalled one occasion when Chicago was performing. As a promotion, the Ryan Center auctioned off front row seats,
autographed merchandise and a chance to meet the band. Russo said the man who won was a huge fan. "He sent me
thank you notes for like a year afterward," Russo said. The proceeds from the promotion were donated to charity.
Recently, the Ryan Center was able to donate more than $1,000 to Meals on Wheels. Russo's department has also
reached out to several other foundations like the Johnnycake Center and the Feinstein Center. "We really want to help
support the community," she said.
Russo, who was born in Hartford, Conn., went to Boston University, where she earned a degree in advanced
communication practices and writing.
In her spare time, Russo plays guitar and writes songs, some of which are copyrighted. She plans to record them in the
In addition, she writes URI Informed, the newsletter for URI employees.
Russo is also an advocate for many social causes. "I basically just want to make the world a better place," she said.
Let's Bring Our Nation Back to Life!