Calculated Chess Moves To Pitch Brands

Calculated Chess Moves To Pitch Brands

Photo from @nonstopnic

Whatever dream is in your heart, now is the time to make it a reality. In the age of information that we live in, we have everything that we need to pursue our calling.

But with many brand coaches and strategists urging us to get our own bag through multiple income streams, sometimes the overload of content makes us feel rushed — like we have to apply everything that we’re consuming right away. Combine that with seeing people’s highlight reel on social media, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

That’s why it’s crucial to move at your own pace and be strategic to reach your goals. Nicole Anderson, Senior Program Manager of Corporate Partnerships & Community Engagement at Delta Vacations, knows all about that.

After graduating with a degree in Broadcast Journalism from Hampton University, she humbly took an internship with a boutique ad agency in Atlanta. There she dabbled in brand sponsorships and began to explore full-time career opportunities in that field. Her resume only reflected about 20% of sponsorship experience, so it was a struggle finding leads.

I decided to make a chess move and look for opportunities outside of Atlanta, get as much experience as I could in a different market and use that experience for my resume to help me land something in Atlanta when I was ready.”

Nicole got a position with McCann Worldgroup, overseeing sponsorships for the Northeast and Southeast region of the U.S. Army. Without hesitation, she moved to Huntsville, Alabama and dove head first.

After getting solid experience with McCann, she began exploring new opportunities. When she submitted her notice to her job, she still didn’t have another job (#leapoffaith). But shortly afterward she was blessed with her current position at Delta Vacations, where she’s developed and executed marketing campaigns for brands like DreamWorks, Kellogg’s and the Minnesota Vikings.

Nicole’s willingness to strategically move to Alabama and gain experience in her field set her up for success. Here’s what she had to say about making calculated chess moves to advance your career or shoot your shot with brands…

Be clear on your goals, but flexible in your methods

You first have to clearly define the goal that you’re trying to accomplish. Whether it’s pivoting into a new career or pitching Fortune 100 brands, it’s hard to establish a plan of action without knowing exactly what you’re trying to achieve. It’s important to make weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual goals.

Even if you’re taking baby steps on a weekly or monthly basis with stretch goals on a quarterly and annual basis, you’re still making calculated moves that have some kind of impact on your end goal. The road to success is NEVER in a straight line, but as long as you have a clearly defined roadmap, you’ll always get there eventually.

Think like a brand or potential client 

There are a few different things that I think most people in my field look for when evaluating sponsorships for their brands:

  • How does this opportunity elevate my brand and does this brand align with my company?
  • What touch points does this opportunity include (ie. traditional, digital, social, experiential tactics)?
  • Does their audience overlap with our target audience?
  • What is their audience reach?
  • Does this opportunity offer exposure to one of our target markets?
  • Is their brand and the request for investment clearly defined?
  • Does the exposure presented justify the request for investment?

Be clear and strategic 

Make sure your brand and the request for investment is clearly defined. I see pitch decks all of the time where once I’m done reviewing, I still don’t know what kind of support the person is actually requesting.

There are so many free resources to put together a professional-looking deck. Canva should be your best friend. It’s a free, super user-friendly tool, with numerous templates to put together a pitch deck.

I always encourage people to include tiered levels of support for potential brands. Brands love options and do not underestimate the power of in-kind/barter levels of support. We all understand that money makes the world go round but sometimes brands have already allocated hard dollars to other initiatives and just don’t have that type of contribution to provide. Give them another option. It could be a great way to at least start to build a rapport with a brand. For example….

Say I’m an up and coming Festival Producer and am pitching brands for my first festival. I reach out to Red Bull (great brand alignment if you know how involved Red Bull is into the music landscape) and am pitching a $100K, $50K and $25K sponsorship opportunity. Red Bull may decline because they’ve allocated their budget for the year. You could have missed out on the opportunity to also include an ‘In-Kind’ level of support for Red Bull to supply the beverages for your VIP activation area. If they agree, that’s an opportunity to build a rapport with your new Red Bull contact. Provide that person with a full recap of your event, get an idea of their planning period for the following year and be ready to pitch them for monetary support in the future.

Tailor the pitch to the brand

Take the time to be thoughtful with your requests. It’s very obvious when you’re reviewing a pitch that someone has just removed the previous brand’s logo and added yours in its place. Take the time to brainstorm opportunities that make it hard for the brand you’re pitching to say ‘No’. Brands have an easier time seeing the possibilities when you present creative, organic and mutual-beneficial opportunities. If you’re having a hard time coming up with ideas, see what the brands that you respect are doing. Take a look at your competitors. Google is your friend, use it.

Some big brands like Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola have different sponsorship request platforms where you have to complete your information online to submit an official request. If you’re looking at brands that don’t have one of those platforms, find the most appropriate contact to send your pitch deck to or check LinkedIn for a contact in the Marketing Department.

Influence Done Differently Brands

Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready when a good opportunity comes

Confidence is key and the power of networking will always be beneficial. Make sure that you’re constantly connecting with new people and putting yourself in the right rooms to meet people that could eventually help you at some point with your goal.

Start with your backyard. If I live in Atlanta and I want to be a beauty blogger/influencer specifically focusing on black hair care, I should have a contact list of all of the brands within the city first that I could reach out to. It’s easier to try and schedule a meeting with someone in your backyard than potentially fall into an email black hole with a larger black hair care brand in NYC or LA. Don’t be afraid to start small and build your brand. Build that authentic following and engagement. Get most of your mistakes out then so you’re ready for when the big brands start approaching you.

Make sure that you also have a core group of people that you trust to critique your materials and don’t take anything personally. Sometimes we’re so used to seeing our own marketing materials that it helps to have a fresh set of eyes on it. If you just built a website, have a few people in your core group visit it and give you feedback about the user experience. Take the insights and evaluate if you need to make changes. Host a focus group for product testing, send out free samples with a link to a free survey (via SurveyMonkey) to get feedback, etc. The marketing landscape changes so much that everyone should always be looking for opportunities to optimize their marketing so they’re always market ready.

Nicole is full of gems! Follow her journey and travel adventures on Instagram @nonstopnic.

Making Faith Moves with Joy Young of Roc Nation

Making Faith Moves with Joy Young of Roc Nation

Joy Young

Photo Credit: Kola Adetola, IG: @king_kola311

Joy Young is beauty and brains personified.

Inspired to pursue a career in entertainment by BET’s 106-n-Park, the story of this self-proclaimed country girl from Louisiana speaks volumes about having faith and staying true to yourself.

As the Southeast Promotion Director at Roc Nation, she currently oversees 42 stations across three main radio formats: urban radio, rhythmic radio, and urban AC. It’s rare for a Black woman to be in this position, but Joy’s grace and grit got her there.

During our third installment of Culture Capital, a conversation celebrating the impact and influence of black creatives, we learned more about Joy’s journey.

She shared so many gems,  but here are five takeaways:

Bet on yourself EVERY. DAMN. TIME

When Joy was studying broadcast journalism at Southern University, she fell in love with promotions and marketing. She started a promo company with her two best friends, where they elevated the awareness of local college parties.

The events caught the eye of Trill Entertainment, the label that housed her hometown heroes such as Boosie and Webbie. When Joy got the opportunity, she wasn’t afraid to shoot her shot with their manager, Courtney Scott. This lead to a contract with the label and her promo company.

“I’ve always been entrepreneur-savvy. We studied LLC’s, learned how to start a company, made t-shirts and hired other women — we took it seriously.”

That hustle paid off because Joy became an intern at Trill Entertainment, and was eventually hired on as a Marketing Assistant. While there, she met the National Promotions Director for Atlantic Records who told her they needed a promo campaign for B.O.B.

“I had no idea what to do, but I used my instincts from working promotion projects to help me think of what they’d want to do.”

From interviews to campus media to retail meetups – she put the pieces of the puzzle together that landed her an internship with Atlantic Records.

Even early on in her career, Joy always betted on herself and believed in her ability to figure it out.

Joy Young

Photo Credit: Kola Adetola, @king_kola311

Integrity is everything

It was in her trajectory to move to Atlanta, the Culture Capital, but it wasn’t short of challenges. During her first stint in the city, she worked unfulfilling jobs to make ends meet and occasionally slept in her car so she didn’t overstay crashing with friends.

When times got really tough, someone encouraged her to take advantage of what the ATL is known for and strip to make some extra cash. Joy knew that was not a part of God’s plan for her life.

“If that’s what it comes down to, this isn’t for me. I was prepared to let it go,” says Joy.  “You don’t have to compromise your morals, values, and beliefs to get where you’re trying to go.”

Faith moves never fail you

While struggling in Atlanta, one of Joy’s mentors called her with a word from God. She pushed her to quit her job, dump her boyfriend and move back home to Louisiana for six months until God restored her to where she needed to be. Joy didn’t hesitate to make that faith move.

“I’ve always been the type of person to leap out on faith. I don’t ask questions — I just do it and see what happens.”

In this season, Joy grew her relationship with God and got baptized. She spent that time growing spiritually by fasting and praying. She regularly worshipped in church and learned about God in Bible study.

During the last month, she got a call from her mentor about an opportunity at Arrow Records, Creflo Dollar and Pastor Taffi Dollar’s gospel label where they signed Kim Burrell & Ann Nesby.  They extended an offer the day that she interviewed, and her boss even got her the same car that was repossessed when she faced hard times in Atlanta months ago

Taking time for that spiritual foundation propelled Joy’s career and shaped who she has become.

Photo Credit: Kola Adetola, IG: @king_kola311


Build and maintain relationships by adding value

Joy has been blessed with many different mentors that have helped elevate her career. They put her name in the hat for opportunities, such as roles at Atlantic Records and Wondaland, Janelle Monet’s record label. But the value-add is always mutual.

“Mentorship is a give-and-take. A lot of time, you’re looking for mentorship with your hand out, but you’re not prepared to give at the same time. We seek mentors to pour into us, but what are we giving them in return? The quickest way to get a mentor is to ask what you can do for them.

Trust the process

“When I got to Wondaland, I saw everyone with their natural hair and being themselves. They were all spiritually grounded. I started pulling back the layers where I had to fight for my position. I felt valuable there.”

It’s evident that every step of Joy’s career was ordained by God. Throughout her journey, she embraced what she was receiving at that moment as it prepared her for the next. Being obedient during her six month season back in Louisiana gave her the spiritual foundation she needed and helped her appreciate environments like Wondaland.

“Be present in the space you’re in — you’re thinking about the future and it isn’t here yet. You need to think about what you need to do at that moment to get you to where you want to be, or just make it through another day.”

Joy is such a light to the world — make sure you follow her on Instagram @jcouturepr!

How Rihanna Is Empowering A Generation Of Badass Women

How Rihanna Is Empowering A Generation Of Badass Women

Rihanna Birthday
Photo Credit: Fenty Beauty

Like her 7th studio album, Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty is Unapologetic. She doesn’t just Talk That Talk, she embodies authenticity and is Anti anyone who tries to put her in a box. A cultural icon, Ri Ri has proven that she has more to offer than just Music Of The Sun. From beauty to fashion, this Good Girl Gone Bad empowers women around the world to tap into their inner confidence and be Loud about who they are. Rihanna shows that A Girl Like Me can be multidimensional – from elegant to Rated R.

To celebrate this entertainment powerhouse and serial entrepreneur’s 31st birthday, here are five ways that Rihanna is empowering a generation of badass women.

Her brand, Fenty Beauty doesn’t just sell makeup, it promotes confidence

When it debuted in September 2017, Fenty Beauty revolutionized the makeup industry. Brands that claimed to be inclusive were shook when she dropped 40+ foundation shades usinga formula truly designed for all skin tones.

Rihanna birthday
THE BROOKLYN BOROUGH OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 07: Rihanna celebrates the launch of Fenty Beauty at Duggal Greenhouse on September 7, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Fenty Beauty )

Black women in particular are usually an afterthought for other makeup brands, but Fenty Beauty was created with us in mind. Rihanna’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity lead her beauty brand to be recognized as one of Time Magazine’s best inventions of 2017.

Makeup helps women accentuate their natural beauty. By creating an inclusive line that looks like skin, Rihanna is promoting confidence and self acceptance.

Ri Ri keeps hustling

Rihanna shows that women that we don’t have to stick to one thing — we can explore whatever interest us. In addition to music, she’s extended her brand to movies and multiple business ventures.

Less than a year after dropping Fenty Beauty, Rihanna released SAVAGE x FENTY. This lingerie line extends conversations around diversity and inclusivity, with products that encourage body-positivity.

When the brand debuted during New York Fashion Week in 2018, the models were all shapes and sizes.

Rihanna Birthday
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

“The show was raw,” said model Jazzelle Zanaughtti. “We were all half-naked skin, bones, rolls, curves, scars and stretch marks 100 per cent out for the world to see. In confidence, power and unity we were able to be unapologetically ourselves.”

But Ri’s hustle doesn’t stop there — she also collaborated on a limited-edition shoe collection, PUMA x FENTY. And there’s talks of her emerging in the luxury fashion world soon with a partnership with LVMH.

Through her many business ventures, Rihanna reminds us to do whatever the hell we want to do.

Rihanna isn’t just a pretty face — she’s really about her business

Ri Ri is undeniably beautiful, but her heart and hustle shines through, showing that inner beauty is just as important.

Unlike other influencers who attach their name to a brand for a check, Rihanna plays an active role in her business ventures. She’s fully immersed in the creation of her Fenty Beauty line, not just the marketing. Rihanna can authentically speak to how and why the products were created, and she often creates video tutorials to show how to use the products.

Rihanna is proof that by taking on projects that align with your personal values and interests, you can create the life of your dreams.

Rihanna Makeup Tutorial

She uses her influence to make an impact

“We’re all human, and we all just want a chance. A chance at life… a chance at an education… a chance at a future.” – Rihanna when she received the Harvard Humanitarian Award in 2016.

She started her first charity at 18, the Clara Lionel Foundation, which she named after her grandparents. The organization seeks to give children around the world access to a proper education and quality healthcare, but Rihanna has made it clear that it is an ever-evolving foundation that will continue to help people in need in various ways. Her annual Diamond Ball is a star-studded event that raises money for the foundation.

Rihanna encourages us to make a commitment to help at least one person, no matter how much or how little we have.

Photo Credit: PRIMADONNA/GEMAIRA/Splash News

Rihanna always remembers where she comes from 

From speeches to interviews, Ri always acknowledges her humble beginnings in Barbados. Her connection to her culture helps people relate to her — despite her stardom she still feels like the girl from your neighborhood.

In 2018 she was appointed “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary” in her home country. According to a statement from the Barbados Government Information Office, the position gives the star “specific responsibility for promoting education, tourism and investment for the island.”

Rihanna has stayed true to her roots throughout her career, and uses her fame to make a difference in her community.

Happy birthday, Queen Rihanna! Keep shining your light and inspiring women around the world to unapologetically own who they are!

#CultureConvos: How Black Men Smile® Is Revolutionizing Self-Love

#CultureConvos: How Black Men Smile® Is Revolutionizing Self-Love

The lies that society have told us about men and vulnerability is sickening: Real men don’t cry. It’s gay to hug another man. Men don’t need therapy. Showing emotion makes a man weak….

Fortunately, there’s a platform that’s reversing the psychological impact of these narratives and redefining what self-love looks like to Black men.

Black Men Smile® is a platform with “a mission to create a space for Black men to celebrate the way we see ourselves. We ask Black men what makes them smile, and work to create sustainable environments where we can do it more often.”

Black Men Smile
Photo Credit: Black Men Smile®

The multidimensional brand encompasses community building and organizing, apparel, workshops, retreats, digital content and more.

“I did an experiment to explore what other images of Black men made up the landscape of social media. I entered #blackmensmile on Instagram…it yielded ZERO results,” says Carlton Mackey, the Creator and Co-Director of Black Men Smile®.

We chatted with Carlton to learn more about how this platform is moving the cultural forward by promoting radical expressions of self-love:

What is one thing you learned about the Black community through this movement?

I’ve learned that the Black community, a collective consciousness of individuals who make up a vast, complex, and multi layered cultural landscape, are ready to explore healing and joy. Black Men Smile® is proud to help catalyze this change in how we approach resistance. It’s been great to learn how willing the community is to embracing this vision.
Photo Credit: @stepthebarber

What’s been your proudest moment managing Black Men Smile®?

One of my proudest moments managing Black Men Smile® came when one of the young men walked over to another young man, looked him in his eyes, and told him how proud he was to be his friend and all of traits that he possessed that made him special.

Black Men Smile® visits Cuba.

We saw your international travel retreat — that’s dope! What was the BMS experience in Cuba and where are you headed to next?

The BMS experience in Cuba was (in the spirit of the place itself) revolutionary. We explored a place steeped in a rich African cultural tradition. We bonded as men. We expressed vulnerability and through it built trust. We opened up to new levels of friendship by sharing parts of our personal narrative that other people may have never known. It was a beautiful experience made so in part by the beauty we encountered in the people we met and the authentic ways we engaged with each other.

Black Men Smile® is headed to Colombia for its next travel experience.

Black Men Smile
Photo Credit: @lil_travo

What’s one word or phrase that you want someone to feel when they experience Black Men Smile®?

“Resistance is the secret of JOY.” – Alice Walker

What self care practices help you stay smiling as a black man?


We love the work that Black Men Smile® is doing to push the culture forward! Follow them on Instagram to join the movement!

For The Culture: The Must Have App for a Lit Game Night

For The Culture: The Must Have App for a Lit Game Night

For The Culture: The Must Have App for a Lit Game Night

Photo by Ark Creative Company

If you don’t have game night with your friends and family, you need to make that happen! It’s a great, inexpensive way to spend time with your loved ones. Comedy mixed with competition can strengthen a friendship, or at the very least create some of the best memories.

One of my must haves for game night is a free app called For The Culture, which is available on iTunes and Google Play. Founded by Teddy Phillips of Ark Creative Company this game is “a modern spin on the classic guessing game charades that incorporates African American Culture, History, Music and Film into a game that you can play anywhere with your friends and family.”

With entertaining categories such as TV Shows, Music, and Black History, For The Culture will be a favorite during game night. You can continue the fun by purchasing other categories such as 90s, Dances, and Destinations starting at $.99

I had a blast playing the game with my blog partner. Check out our YouTube video to see it in action.

I caught up with Teddy to learn more about how he and his team came up with For The Culture, and what they hope to achieve with the app:

What’s Ark Creative Company about?

“Ark Creative Company develops products to bring cultures together. Our aim is to Inform, Inspire and Include different cultures in every product we create. Our first product is For The Culture.”

What inspired you to create For The Culture?

“I was inspired to create For The Culture because I felt the gaming culture lacked representation from the most commonly adopted culture. Right then, I saw the need to put Black culture, history and arts all into one interactive game.”

What was your experience creating the app?

“It was a great learning experience that showed me how deeply rooted and impacting Black culture really is. I had already developed products for Fortune 100 companies, but what made this more exciting was that I was able to connect more emotionally with this product and put my community’s experiences and interests into a platform that could scale worldwide. I never would have thought that China would be our second largest region for app downloads behind the United States. This simple metric validated the entire vision and the power of this culture.”

For The Culture

What’s your favorite category in the app and why?

“From an educational aspect, Black History is my favorite category. Not only did I feel it was important to have historic figures and innovators, but I also wanted to highlight individuals who had their lives cut short by senseless acts of injustice and police brutality. I wanted to find a way to extend their memory beyond a hashtag that trended for a week or two. I feel like these individuals are apart of a larger discussion that leads to more conversations about equality. I felt it was important to honor these men and women and never forget the impact they had on the community.”

What do you want people to feel when they play For The Culture?

“When people play FTC, I want them to feel educated by the content, empowered by the design and entertained with culture that reflects their daily lives.”

Teddy and his team at the Ark Creative Company are definitely off to a great start with For The Culture! Download the free app on iTunes and Google Play for your next game night.

I hope you have as much fun playing as I did!


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