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.

The Key to Knowing & Asking For What You’re Worth

The Key to Knowing & Asking For What You’re Worth

A couple of months ago I was scrolling through LinkedIn and to my surprise, I saw that my friend Lantre Barr had recently been named Inc. 5000’s Fastest Growing Companies in the US. After graduating college in the middle of the recession, like many Americans, Lantre found it difficult to find a job using his degree. Out of pure necessity, Lantre started his company Blacc Spot Media, a communications and technology company. In 2013 he made revenues of $150,000 a year and in just three years grew to generating $2.9 million, landing him on Inc.’s prestigious list.


Of course, I had a lot of questions on what he had to do in his business and what was the mindset shift that had to take place mentally for this to even be possible. After digging deep, Lantre shared that yes, the right introductions and going for bigger deals was a part of the shift but internally he had to become more confident in himself and the value that he provided.


In our conversation, we talk about:

  • How to lead by example and show compassion to your employees while setting a level of expectation to deliver quality work
  • Knowing your worth and having confidence in the value you offer changes the game
  • The importance of showing compassion to yourself as an entrepreneur and celebrating your wins along the ‘Journey’.


We may not all be going for million dollar deals (yet!) but at some level we are all second guessing our value and what we have to offer to the world. What’s keeping you from going for great? From leveling up? From asking for the money you deserve?…True, undeniable, unshakeable belief in self is where it all starts. If you can relate or have thoughts about this conversation, I would love for you to comment and share below. And as always know that you are not alone in the ‘Journey’.




Finding Purpose in Your Job While You Grow Your Side Hustle

Finding Purpose in Your Job While You Grow Your Side Hustle

After I graduated, I launched my business full-time and even though I don’t regret my decision, I also don’t think that entrepreneurship is the only way to go. I’m not advocating for you to drop out of school or just quit your job to start your business. Speaking with Troy showed the balance of working full-time while also building a business he is passionate about.

Troy started Grits and Gospel with his best friend Sam as a platform to share evergreen content that was more than just talking about people and things but thought provoking ideas and opinions.

When talking to Troy, we realized that so many times when people are in job, they are miserable and literally counting down the hours to leave everyday without really taking stock of what does this moment actually have to teach me. What are the skills in corporate America that can be transferable as you start your business.You’re never in a space where there is nothing for you to learn.

So if you can relate, I challenge you, to look at your job with a new perspective, what are the transferable skills that I can apply today in growing my business. Use it for what it’s for and in the meantime, work for your 5-9 to put you out of your 9-5.


#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!

How to Grow Your Business to $60,000 a Month

How to Grow Your Business to $60,000 a Month

I came across Gamal’s story months ago on how he was able to start his beard oil company, Fresh Heritage, and within 90 days grew his revenue to over $60,000 a month. Of course, I was impressed and had to share with you his step by step process on exactly how he was able to start and launch his business. 

Have you ever questioned how do people get the money to start? Should you launch a product or service business? Or do you question if you have what it takes to start a successful business? Then tune in to watch my full conversation with Gamal because you’re not alone, we have all had these questions and worries and we’re sharing it all here. 

In our conversation, Gamal shares:

  • The importance of testing and validating your product in the market before you launch. 
  • How he was able to raise the capital needed to launch, with friends, family and fools. 
  • His top marketing strategies to grow and launch your business.
  • How lack of confidence kept him from going all in and believing in himself. 

If you’ve asked yourself any of these questions or found some inspiration today, I would love to hear from you. Comment below and share your story, ideas and thoughts on this conversation. And lets do the ‘Journey’ together. 





“I ate off the land. Whatever was available to sell, I sold, and did it in a way where you had to have a brand, you had to be consistent, the quality of what you were selling had to be good.”


“If I want something, I go into the future in my brain, which is powerful, and I visualize exactly what I want, so I’m there…I’m in the future. Then I think about every single thing I need to do to make that happen and everything single thing that could stop that from happening or what I need to avoid…and go right back.”


“First it has to inspire me, it has to be fun. It has to be something I’m dreaming about. Anything I enjoy I figure out how to monetize. I wouldn’t do anything that I get paid for that I wouldn’t do for free.”


Finishing. They think that it’s going to be easy. They quit. They don’t look at things as a learning experience. They think it’s suppose to happen in a day. They don’t understand that building a brand means being consistent.