GMC pledges multiyear financial commitment to Marcus Graham Project


General Motors’ GMC brand announced a three-year partnership with the Marcus Graham Project to foster diverse leadership in advertising, media and marketing, and marks the organization’s first contractual, multi-year commitment with a brand.

The financial commitment from GMC is earmarked to support the nonprofit’s annual iCR8 Boot Camp program, which trains aspiring marketers from non-traditional backgrounds.

The commitment will begin on Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend in January of 2022, as the Marcus Graham Project reaches its 15th anniversary. Its previous brand sponsorships have included Apple, Fossil and Patron.

“As part of a larger GMC community partnership outreach, we are looking to build deeper relationships within diverse communities from high school students to young professionals, from a local and national level,” says Jamie Barbour, senior manager, GMC advertising and media. 

“Working on this initiative with our advertising agency partner Leo Burnett Detroit, which has worked with the Marcus Graham Project over years, it was a partnership that made perfect sense. We will be supporting and collaborating on their workshops, boot camp and mentoring, in areas such as marketing, creative, strategy and media.”

The move comes half a year after GM CEO Mary Barra pledged to raise the company’s media spending with Black-owned media to 8 percent by 2025, after being called out by leaders of those organizations.

Each boot camp brings together about 12 participants who spend a dozen weeks in Dallas working full-time as an impromptu ad agency. Each participant had experience or schooling in other industries, and none have attended portfolio school. The fellowship includes travel, housing and tours of local agencies. Future sponsorship dollars will go toward salaries for participants.

“They’re very entrepreneurial. They come up with their own process, their own project management system. We give them examples of how it’s done, but if that doesn’t work for them, that’s it,” says Lincoln Stephens, co-founder of the Marcus Graham Project. “The last few virtual boot camps that we’ve done, it’s been interesting to see how they essentially start a new company, create a culture for their company, with people that they’ve never met from all over the country.”

For the duration of the boot camp, they will work on a single brief from GMC. “Participants can expect to contribute to marketing briefs for some of our upcoming new product launches tied to GMC’s electric future,” Barbour says. “Briefs will include multicultural engagement strategies, creative activations and influencer partnerships for some of our highly-anticipated product launches.”

Since the boot camp program began in 2009, 96 percent of participants have found a job within six months, with an average starting salary of $65,000, according to Stephens.

The partnership with GMC is so promising that the organization has decided that it will only accept multi-year financial sponsorship commitments from now on, setting the organization up to better track and measure impact long-term and to plan for growth.

And perhaps, there is also an element of serendipity at play, Stephens adds. “[In 2007] when we created Marcus Graham Project when I was in Chicago, I happened to be working on General Motors as a client of mine at Carol H. Williams. So it feels that it’s kind of a predestined sort of effort.”

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