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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.
Click here for more stats from "The Buying Power of
Get quick access to key
Click here to go to African-American Census Bureau
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gospel music’s affluent black Christian market
By Krissah Williams
2005) Monica Miller, general sales manager of Radio One Inc.'s gospel
station in Atlanta, remembers how hard it used to be to sell advertising
for 97.5 Praise FM. Three years ago, few groups except churches were
willing to buy time on the station, although it was the fifth most popular
spot on the FM dial in the market. "It was frustrating," said Miller, who
would watch advertisers in search of black consumers flock to urban media
while ignoring gospel.
But these days, says Miller, corporate America has set its sights on the
black Christian market. As a result her station's revenue grew 35 percent
last year, and about 90 percent of the station's advertisers are now
supermarkets, apparel retailers, automotive manufacturers and other large
Major corporations have long marketed to large demographic groups
including women, Latinos, blacks and youth. But as companies search for
new ways to slice the demographics, black Christians — and their
middle-class money, their education and their families — have attracted
There are 36 million blacks in America and their buying power has risen
substantially in recent years, from $318 billion in 1990 to $585 billion
in 2000 and to $723 billion in 2004, according to the University of
Georgia's Selig Center for Economic Growth.
For years advertisers targeted this market through ads in magazines like
Ebony, Jet and Essence. More recently they looked to magazines, radio and
cable TV channels focused on urban music and entertainment. But those
advertisers began worrying that some of their target audience, like Leesha
Hall, 26, a public relations professional who lives in Springfield, were
not being reached through these venues, and they began focusing on
reaching black Christians.
'Faith based market'
Deborah Gray Young, a vice president at the E. Morris Communications
Inc. ad agency in Chicago, conducted focus groups of black consumers for
Tyson's Food Inc. and found that the social activities of many black
women, like Hall, centered on their churches.
An estimated 53 percent of blacks regularly attend church, according to a
2002 study by religion research firm Barna Group Ltd., a percentage point
higher than that of the nation overall. Although only about 15 percent of
blacks tune in to gospel stations, according to the research firm Arbitron
Inc., among those listeners, more than 70 percent own their own homes and
17 percent have household income of more than $75,000, according to
Interep National Radio Sales Inc., a radio marketing firm.
"There's been a growing interest in this faith-based market from
mainstream corporate America. Initially there was a lot of hesitation due
to the religious nature of it," said Max Siegel, president of Sony's Zomba
Gospel, a major gospel music label. "A lot of companies liked to stay
neutral, and no one could say exactly what the benefit would be. But the
federal government has made faith-based initiatives acceptable."
Siegel added that sales of gospel music have proven that "the consumers
are loyal, and they have a lot of disposable income."
From Mahalia Jackson to hip-hop
African American gospel music stars sold about $140 million worth of
CDs last year. Just last month, the latest CD of platinum gospel artist
Kirk Franklin, whose music weaves together R&B, hip-hop, pop and gospel,
sold more than 150,000 copies in three weeks.
Siegel said that in the past, the advertisers most interested in reaching
this market were small church-based entrepreneurs — Christian book authors
and small-time recording artists. But as the genre evolved from Mahalia
Jackson singing sweet hymns in a choir robe to singers performing holy
hip-hop for sold-out concerts in huge sports arenas, corporations noticed.
Hall, a gospel fan who is an active member of Greater Mount Calvary Holy
Church in Northeast Washington, said she is more inclined to read Xii
Magazine or Gospel Today than Vibe, a magazine that covers hip-hop
culture, or Ebony, which was launched 60 years ago. And she says she
notices the ads. "When companies advertise in these publications that are
geared toward the Christian community, it piques your interest," Hall
Ford reaches out to families
Ford Motor Co. hopes to reach families, a big target market, through
black churches and gospel music. Last summer, Ford representatives
traveled with officials of the Gospel Music Channel to seven cities in the
South and Midwest. The media executives pitched their channel, which began
airing last year, to pastors and their staffs over prayer luncheons. Ford
followed with a video touting its history of supporting black civil
rights, said Marc Perry, a Ford multicultural marketing manager.
Ford is also running commercials on the Gospel Music Channel, featuring
the Ford 500 Sedan and Explorer. Those are vehicles that Ford generally
markets to families, and its marketing studies concluded that most gospel
consumers are middle-class families.
Perry said Ford does not market to other Christian groups. Its use of
gospel media is intended to help the company better reach black consumers,
not a particular religion.
"Many African Americans consider faith an integral part of their lives.
These are people that fit our target demographic really well in terms of
income, age and lifestyle," Perry said. Ford did not make commercials
specifically for the gospel channel but used some of its African
American-targeted ads that have run on regular broadcast television.
Ford also co-sponsored MegaFest this summer, a conference hosted by Bishop
T.D. Jakes, pastor of a Dallas mega-church with about 30,000 members. Ford
displayed vehicles during the event, which drew 200,000 attendees.
Corporate sponsors, which also included Bank of America Corp., American
Airlines Corp. and Coca-Cola Inc., contributed tens of millions of dollars
in return for the right to hold seminars and display products.
These dollars have helped fuel growth in the gospel sector. For example,
Tyson's Food recently bought full-page advertisements in two magazines
targeting black Christians — Gospel Truth and Precious Times. The ads,
targeted to black women ages 24 to 54, feature a black family having a
picnic. The parents are grilling and the children are playing tug of war.
Tyson's Food also began running commercials featuring African Americans on
the gospel shows on TV One, a cable channel focused on African Americans
that was launched 22 months ago, and Black Entertainment Television.
More revenue spurs competition
Kerry F. Douglas, a gospel industry veteran who started Gospel Truth
magazine six years ago, said the corporate focus has helped his magazine.
Ad revenue has increased 20 percent in the past six years, thanks to buys
from big companies like Toyota Motor Corp. But the attention has also
attracted new competition. A recent conference of aspiring black magazine
publishers drew attendees that fell into two camps. Half wanted to start
hip-hop magazines. The other half were planning to launch gospel magazines
— far more than in past years, Douglas said.
More gospel radio stations are appearing. Radio One of Lanham, the
nation's largest urban radio network, has programmed about a dozen of its
67 radio stations with gospel music in the past five years. Nationwide
there are nearly 300 black gospel radio stations, compared with 80 a
Investment money also has been easier to find, say some in the gospel
industry. The year-old Gospel Music Channel, which is based in Atlanta, is
backed by venture capital firms — Bear Stearns' Constellation Ventures
Management LLC, Alpine Equity Partners LP and InterMedia Partners.
Entrepreneurs look for an edge
Entrepreneurs closer to home are trying to benefit.
ChristianHangSuite.com, an Internet portal targeted at black Christians,
has received advertising from the Sony Pictures movie "The Gospel," gospel
recording artists and a travel agency marketing to black Christians. It
hosts monthly social gatherings in hopes of getting more Web site viewers
and thus more ads. The events, called First Sundays, are held at H2O, a
nightclub in Southwest Washington that pumps hip-hop music and serves up
cocktails on Saturdays.
Kevin Parker, 33, founded the site with his father last year after he was
born again and stopped partying. It mimics other popular portals marketed
at young adult African-Americans in the District, including http://www.eviplist.com
and http://www.flowinsiders.com , which promote nightclubs and parties and
display party photos.
"When I used to party, those were the sites I would access," Parker said.
"I wanted something just as flashy for Christians." Parker said his site
receives 40,000 to 45,000 visits daily and has about 20,000 unique
ChristianHangSuite.com believes advertisers want to reach people like
Janese Woolridge, who sat on a purple sofa, sipping fruit juice and
swaying her head on a recent Sunday afternoon as a deejay played a song by
Mary Mary, a gospel duo with an R&B sound. Woolridge, 21, is a social work
master's student at Howard University. She said she would rather hang out
with other Christians than go to a nightclub. And she supports companies
that support her lifestyle.
"Christian events allow us to fellowship together and uplift our walk,"
Woolridge said. "I would be more likely to see advertisers in a place that
is supporting things like this."
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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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