With an influx of household-name brands now partnering and recruiting at HBCUs, some are debating those brands’ intentions.
In the past two years, Florida A&M University has acquired partnerships with Nike, LeBron James, Wakati Hair, Estée Lauder and Twitter.
Brands have been able to make their contribution to the institution by allocating sponsorship dollars to back events and hosting recruitment tours to provide opportunities for students to be employed with their company.
Most recently, FAMU alumna Kaitlyn Davis was able to design Nike dunks centered on the school as a collaboration with Nike’s Yard Runner campaign.
Although brands have made contributions to HBCUs, FAMU students like Jonathan David are raising their eyebrows at the timing and are asking how long the support will last.
“I believe there was a spike in brand interest in HBCUs and Black hirings following the George Floyd incident in 2020,” he said.
“Racial tensions in the country highlighted the lack of diversity in these companies,” David added. “Companies kind of felt like they had to hire and interact with Black people to avoid any public backlash or lawsuits. The perfect way to do this was to tap into HBCUs. ”
Whether or not this is true is unclear, but what’s certain is the significant changes that brand involvement with HBCUs has increased since the George Floyd tragedy in May 2020.
According to data provided by Morgan State University, there was a 263% increase in employer engagement with the university’s online job portal. Not strong enough there, the Baltimore HBCU also reported that events held by these brands had increased by 73%.
In October, it was announced that the tech company Adobe would be offering monetary support and other resources to eligible HBCU students. This investment is an effort to add to the 7% of African Americans employed in tech.
“As someone who has seen the HBCU renaissance on both sides as not only an entrepreneur, business owner, agency owner and person who has consulted with agencies, I find it beneficial that brands are wanting to lean into HBCUs.” Jared Eummer said.
Eummer, a 2017 graduate of FAMU and marketing and sales lead, has worked alongside big-name brands including Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Roc Nation and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Seeing firsthand the impact these partnerships have made, Eummer said he is excited to see what the future holds.
“I think us being unapologetically Black, in our rawest form, there’s definitely benefit in that. From an administrative standpoint and from an athletic standpoint, I would love to see HBCUs cash in on these dollars monetarily and, beyond that, continue to reap the benefits and resources,” Eummer said.