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Brief Published: 9 Nov 2020

Brands Sponsor Virtual HBCU Homecoming Celebrations

As growing numbers of marketers rally to support Black consumers, a clutch of American brands are helping to compensate for 2020’s diminished homecoming season for American HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities). We spotlight key brand activations backing festivities (traditionally epic celebrations) for students and alumni of the roughly 100 institutions.

  • Media Brands Brandish Broadcast Support: YouTube partnered with Black broadcaster BET for an October 24 live show that included musical performances as well students and alums (including vice-president-elect Kamala Harris) discussing their college experiences. The video of the show has amassed over a million views.

    Meanwhile, P&G sponsored One Yard, a homecoming microsite hosted by US media conglomerate Urban One that supported a series of live broadcasts and houses HBCU-related articles, like HBCU alums sharing career tips.

    US media network iHeartRadio is hosting a month-long HBCU celebration on its channels until mid-November, spanning radio, podcasts and virtual events. Corporate sponsors include US retailer Ulta Beauty and McDonald’s, via its Black & Positively Golden programme (launched in 2019) in support of Black communities.

  • Championing Female Students: For the second year, Pepsi marked homecoming in collaboration with Black media platform Essence. Their She Got Now programme, celebrating Black women students, toured four colleges in autumn 2019, while October’s virtual version comprised a two-part show live-streamed on Essence.com. To help Pepsi build its pipeline of Black talent and fulfil a pledge to increase its Black manager ranks by 30%, the activation promotes a She Got Now internship programme. See Unlocking Access for more on this topic. 

  • Virtually Connecting Students to Employers: Helping to virtually connect students with employers, Baltimore-based streetwear brand DTLR leveraged events platform Gamerjibe for a careers fair, where students could create avatars connected to their LinkedIn profiles for easy networking (see Experiential Marketing Summit 2020 for more on next-gen events concepts).

  • Gaming to Deliver Diversity: DTLR also sponsored an esports battle, working with Cxmmunity – a non-profit working to diversify gaming, which in summer 2020 launched the HBCU Esports League in partnership with live-streaming service Twitch, as detailed in Pop Culture Pulse: Empowering Fresh Perspectives. A Twitch match-up pitted several recording artists against HBCU League captains.

  • Fashion Fuels Homecoming Identities: Finally, playing on the fashion focus surrounding HBCU homecomings, Target sponsored content on millennial-focused platform Refinery 29, spotlighting what homecoming means to students and alumni, alongside outfit choices from Target’s catalogue. See Black History Month 2020 for more on Target’s activations celebrating Black consumers.
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