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data on African American consumers
Black Buying Power:
$679 Billion (2004)
Black U.S. Population:
Top Five Black Cities
- New York
Top Five Black Metros:
- New York-New Jersey
- Los Angeles
Top Five Expenditures:
- Housing 110.2 bil.
- Food 53.8 bil.
- Cars/Trucks 28.7 bil.
- Clothing 22.0 bil.
- Health Care 17.9 bil.
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Chicago, IL 60604
Vonetta Flowers, Winter Olympics gold
medalist, is a hot endorser
Minneapolis Star Tribune
(January 16, 2006) Against a backdrop of white, tucked into a bumper car
zooming down a mountainside, Vonetta Flowers is impossible to miss.
A Winter Olympic niche all by herself, she's the black bobsledder who won
a gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, the history-making mother
of prematurely born twins and one of the hottest marketing spokespeople
for the 2006 Winter Games that begin in 25 days in Turin, Italy. She was
officially selected to the U.S. team on Sunday.
It is, sports business experts say, a certain mark of progress that an
African-American woman in an oddball athletic endeavor like bobsledding
can become a sought-after endorser for mega-companies such as McDonald's,
Coca-Cola, Kleenex, Home Depot, DHL, Hilton Hotels and Speedo.
"Our world has changed in a positive way," said sports talent broker Nova
Lanktree. "I don't think these companies are necessarily targeting
African-Americans when they work with Vonetta. I think they are targeting
all Americans who are proud of an Olympian who won a gold medal."
Flowers, 32, an accidental Winter Olympian, was born Vonetta Jeffery in
Birmingham, Ala., 10 years after four little black girls were blown up in
a church there. It surely was a center of civil rights activity, but
hardly a bobsledding hotbed.
"It never snows there," Flowers said. "I never watched the bobsled before
I got in one. The only thing I knew was 'Cool Runnings' " she said, of the
1993 movie about the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team.
Sue Rodin, Flowers' agent, admits that Flowers' appeal has a "novelty act"
aspect. But that quirkiness is folded into a compelling, real-life story.
The daughter of a hotel maid, Flowers gave birth in August 2002 to a pair
of sons, including one, Jorden, who weighed 2 pounds, 9 ounces. He was
Flowers makes her living and constructs her reputation on the ice bahns of
Germany and Italy, swooshing downward at 80-plus miles per hour.
"I can't see anything," said Flowers, whose strength and 165 pounds push
her vehicle at the start and stop it 1,400 meters later as the brakeman on
her two-woman team. "My head is down throughout the race. Basically, I'm
Win or lose next month, Flowers is about to become one of the most
profitable faces of the upcoming Turin Games, sure to pocket "seven
figures," one marketing expert said, if she captures another gold medal.
Olympics are as much a set of stories as they are a series of
competitions. Flowers' improbable and emotional story is a platform to
sell stuff and bolster brands.
The former University of Alabama-Birmingham All-America long
jumper-sprinter answered a "want ad" on a bulletin board at the U.S. track
and field trials to try out for bobsled. Barely two years later, she
became the first black person to win a Winter Olympic gold in any sport.
"I'm really excited that my grandkids will be reading about me in the
history books," she said in a recent interview.
Six months after winning gold, she gave birth to Jorden and Jaden -- he
was 3 pounds-- three months prematurely. Jorden recently underwent brain
surgery in Italy in an attempt to fix his hearing.
She travels with the boys. "They've got their little passports," she said.
Her husband, Johnny Flowers, quit his job as a health care manager to tend
to the twins while his spouse trained for the Olympics.
Look at the soda cup from which her countenance smiles, available at
McDonald's restaurants from Bemidji to Bakersfield, and get the messages.
"I push myself harder than I push my bobsled," the copy reads. "I am
Turn the cup and read: "Vonetta Flowers, Olympic Bobsledder. Mom."
On the one hand, her story is "universal," said Lanktree. On the other
hand, she is a vehicle for target marketing.
Black women in the United States generate more than $400 billion in
spending, said Pepper Miller, president of the Hunter-Miller Group, an
"ethnic marketing" consulting firm.
"Vonetta Flowers is a double take," Miller said. "A beautiful black woman,
a caring mother and a bobsledder? You do a double take on her."
John Lewicki, who heads McDonald's U.S. Olympic marketing efforts, said
that 25 percent of his company's business involves children in the "Happy
Meal" range whose food decisions are made by mothers.
Lewicki said of Flowers: "We look at her first as a woman and mom. But as
an African-American woman, she hits that segment, sure."
(McDonald's is also featuring Japanese-American speedskater Apolo Ohno and
Mexican-American speedskater Derek Parra on packaging.)
The days are over when companies simply want an inclusive image, said Ken
Smikle, president of Target Market News, a research firm that specializes
in African-American marketing. Flowers is hired, he said, "to move the
needle on product sales. There is the added bonus of her gold medal that
brings good will. But these are product campaigns."
For instance, Speedo, known for its core business of swimsuits, has
retained Flowers to help it expand a line of women's workout and yoga
Like all Olympic athlete/marketers, Flowers benefits from the attitudes of
the American public toward the five Olympic rings.
It's why a company like McDonald's has paid $80 million over four years to
the International Olympic Committee to be a worldwide sponsor of the
Olympics and another $25 million or so to the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC)
to use the rings on its packages for the Turin Games and the 2008 Beijing
According to market research conducted for the USOC by Harris Interactive
on concepts such as greed, selfishness and egotism, Olympic athletes score
much more favorably than do pro athletes and big-time college athletes.
On measures of patriotism, dedication and sportsmanship, Olympic athletes
also score far better than other high-profile jocks.
At that intersection of warm-and-fuzzies, diverse demographics and
shrinking sports marketing dollars sits Flowers, bundled-up Southerner,
helmeted mom, sledding saleswoman.
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'Buying Power' report shows black consumers spending more on home life
As the American economy continues to move sluggishly,
African-American households are curtailing their spending in many
categories, including food, clothing and basic household items, while
investing more in home repair, home entertainment and consumer
electronics. Although they are trimming back, black consumers are still
spending more than their white counterparts on most of these products.
According to the newest edition of “The Buying Power of Black America”
report, African-American households are tightening their belts when it
comes to dining out, expanding their wardrobes, and leisure activities out
of the home. At the same time, they are increasing their spending on home
repairs and remodeling, audio and...
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