Black-owned firms still lag when in comes to getting marketing dollars

The MOBE symposium for Black entrepreneurs explores opportunities, but despite pledges to do better, there's a lot of "lip service" from corporations.

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The upcoming MOBE symposium for Black entrepreneurs shines a light on a continued problem in the industry: Black-owned companies get a tiny portion of marketing dollars.

How small? Statista.com projects a 2020 ad spend of $240 billion. All minority firms get about 5% of that spend, meaning Black-owned firms get even less. 

“Look at our culture,” says Curtis Symonds, chief executive officer of the streaming service HBCU GO TV. “We don’t lack ideas. We lack capital.” (Photo: Handout)

“Look at our culture,” said Curtis Symonds, chief executive officer of the streaming service HBCU GO TV. “We don’t lack ideas. We lack capital.” HBCU GO TV is owned by Allen Media Group, and Byron Allen, who also owns TheGrio, is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Allen Media Group.

Allen and Symonds are both slated to speak at MOBE’s 2022 symposium, which brings together Black entrepreneurs to discuss changes and opportunities in business. MOBE — which stands for “marketing opportunities in business and entertainment” — will hold this year’s gatherings on Thursday, April 21 and Friday, April 22 on the Hopin platform. Attendees are getting more than a conference, according to Yvette Moyo, MOBE’s founder, and registration is open now.

MOBE is where Black people renowned as experts in their fields come together to discuss business issues in a place where they will not be dismissed. Its virtual series, MOBE Mondays, keeps members connected while learning from one another. Recent statistics show how difficult the business world continues to be for Black entrepreneurs.

The symposium sessions are geared toward a Black audience and the “things they need to know about finance to business to entertainment, getting capital to the necessary links that put you in the right place at the right time,” Symonds said.

A number of companies, like Target, Nestle and General Motors, have all pledged to do better when it comes to investing in Black-owned media. But that comes with a huge caveat.

“I think what really happens is a lot of these corporations do a lot of lip service,” Symonds said.

That’s because if you take a deep look at what the companies have pledged, it amounts to a drop in the marketing bucket. For example, 20 brands, including Tyson Foods, DoorDash and L’Oreal USA, have committed to spending at least 2% of their media budgets with Black-owned businesses. 

In Tyson Foods’ case, Statista estimates the company spent $246 million in 2021. Two percent of that total equals less than $5 million.

The buying power of Blacks rose to $1.6 trillion in 2020, about 9% of the nation’s buying power. That figure is larger than the GDPs of all but 10 countries and bigger than that of Russia, South Korea, and Australia.

Moyo noted that “People are benefiting from our purchasing power and not committed to returning anything.”

Yvette Moyo, founder of MOBE, which stands for “marketing opportunities in business and entertainment.” (Photo: Handout)

On April 21, the MOBE conference’s theme will be “Independent Educational Narrative: HBCUs & Beyond.” The session is set to examine what Black children need to succeed in an educational system that doesn’t always address their needs. Actress Sheryl Lee Ralph of the ABC hit Abbott Elementary will introduce the day’s event.

On April 22, in “Solutions For Reimagining our Future,” marketing experts and entrepreneurs will share their insights with eager corporate executives in media, music, film, TV, sports, and technology. 

In addition to Allen and Symonds, scheduled speakers at this year’s MOBE symposium include Jason “J” Carter, co-founder and chief marketing officer at One Venture Group; Howard Fuller, founder and director of the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University, and author-historian Atlantis Browder.

Like MOBE, there are organizations across the country trying to help Blacks ably cover that lane. The Black Marketers Association of America, the African American Marketing Association, and the Federation of African American Advertisers + Marketers connect Black marketers to opportunities of growth.

Still, as the numbers show, it’s an uphill battle. Obtaining capital, getting a fair slice of the marketing dollars, and simply getting into the right meetings continue to offer roadblocks. Those looking to sync up and strategize with like minds are encouraged to register at www.mobesymposium.com.

“It’s never going to be a fair system,” Symonds said. “I applaud folks who break the glass a little bit, but it never will be a fair system. It wasn’t devised that way for us.”

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