Where can you see performances by Nas, Prince, Janelle Monae, Lionel Richie and Mary J .Blige (just to name a few)? The ESSENCE Festival™ is a good guess. The nation’s largest annual event celebrating African-American music, culture and empowerment is held each July in New Orleans.

Fourth of July weekend marked the 20th Anniversary of the festival and The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC)’s 19th year as its presenting sponsor. This year, TCCC and The Coca-Cola Foundation announced a $1 million women’s empowerment initiative in North America to provide financial literacy, job training, entrepreneurship and business development to women in 10 cities across the United States. The announcement was made alongside partners Marc Morial, president, The National Urban League; Reverend Jesse Jackson, founder and president, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition; and Ignacio Salazar, president, SER-Jobs for Progress.  

“The ESSENCE Festival brings thousands of people together for one of the most amazing cultural experiences of the summer and this year was no different,” said Lauventria Robinson, vice president, Multicultural Marketing, Coca-Cola North America. “We’ve been the presenting sponsor of the ESSENCE Festival for the last 19 years and we were thrilled to return for the 20th anniversary. Our team shared plenty of ice-cold Coca-Cola with ESSENCE Festival attendees throughout the weekend. And, we helped them create and celebrate unforgettable moments with their friends with our Share a Coke and digital celebration wall activations.”

This year, ESSENCE offered attendees the opportunity to attend a workshop series aimed to empower them to “live their best lives.” The Coca-Cola Supplier Diversity team led several “EMPOWER U” discussions specifically to talk with African-American female entrepreneurs. Terrez Thompson, vice president of Global Supplier Diversity, hosted the sessions, which addressed personal leadership and business development opportunities for Africa-American women and their unique challenges as underrepresented business owners.

At the end of the sessions, attendees enrolled in the The Coca-Cola Company Supplier Training & Empowerment Program, or STEP. This program provides entrepreneurs with content on how to do business with our company. Grammy-nominated artist Tyrese Gibson – who credits the start of his 20-year music career to his iconic 1994 “Always Coca-Cola” commercial – also made an appearance.

Festival-goers stood in line for hours to get a piece of this summer’s biggest program at the Share a Coke booth. Nearly 9,000 customized mini-cans were shared with family and friends throughout the weekend.

Five Mommy bloggers attended and they saw first-hand our commitment to the community, experienced our multicultural marketing efforts, and had a unique opportunity to engage with our leaders. In the days leading up to the Festival, the bloggers made more than 125,000 impressions using the #CokeESSENCEFest hashtag. Through their sharing of tweets, Facebook and blog posts throughout the weekend to their combined 27,000 followers – the program has produced more than 3 million impressions across several digital platforms to date.