From The HBCU Newsletter: The Multi-million Dollar Opportunity In Partnering With HBCUs For Homecoming


  • Last Friday, ESPN’s “First Take” was live from FAMU’s campus for homecoming
  • For the network, some of the highest rated programs they have ever had were on college campuses including HBCUs
  • For businesses thinking about partnering with HBCUs during homecoming, those talks should start now for next year

Adapted from this week’s HBCU newsletter. Sign up NOW to make sure you get exclusive HBCU videos, news and analysis in your inbox every Wednesday morning.

For the past few weeks, we have been in the thick of HBCU homecoming season. Bands have been blaring, Divine Nine members have been showing out and ESPN has even had a live broadcast from Florida A&M University’s homecoming for the network’s first live on-site HBCU show of the year.

Last Friday, Stephen A. Smith, star of ESPN’s “First Take,” took the stage with Kevin Hart and Will Packer as FAMU Rattlers cheered all around.

“Don’t ever underestimate the impact of HBCUs. They have already produced some of the most talented contributors to this country,” David Roberts, Senior Vice President of NBA & Studio Production at ESPN, told The Plug.

“Not only is it an opportunity to showcase some of the best talent available in the country, but it’s also an opportunity for companies like ESPN to recruit and attract the most talented people to help build a stronger company,” Roberts said.

For ESPN, some of the highest rated programs they have ever had were on college campuses including HBCUs, according to Roberts.

In 2019, when ESPN broadcasted from Delaware for the network’s HBCU Week, more than 2,000 people came and the network raised more than $12 million in scholarship funds. Roberts said it was one of the most successful live shows they’ve done.

For FAMU, the impact of having “First Take” air live from their campus is not just national recognition, but international.

“To be able to showcase our campus, our students and the level of programming that we’re able to produce here at FAMU that places us on a national or international scale is by far some of the best publicity and branding opportunities that we can have,”  Shawnta Friday-Stroud, FAMU’s Vice President of University Advancement, Executive Director of the FAMU Foundation and Dean of the School of Business and Industry, told The Plug.

So, how can businesses go about partnering with HBCUs during homecoming? Those talks should start now for next year.

“I believe that a lot of times that it would be beneficial for companies to think about us kind of on the forefront, as opposed to the tail end,” Friday-Stroud said.

FAMU’s homecoming events draw tens of thousands of people and on average generate $2 to 3 million in revenue for the city of Tallahassee, according to Friday-Stroud. 

Beyond sponsorship opportunities during homecoming, businesses who become long-term partners with FAMU get to assist with curriculum development and student success initiatives. In turn, they get brand recognition and exposure not just to students and their family, but alumni and the community at-large.

At FAMU, there is even a dedicated industry group where businesses who pay an annual fee of $1,500 and give financial support to specific programs have special access to FAMU through sessions with the school’s president and exposure to potential future employees. There are more than 30 companies who are part of this group, like All State, Honeywell and Wells Fargo.

Working with HBCUs is a key way for businesses to build and then fill their diverse talent pipeline — and homecoming is a great time to start that partnership.

Mirtha Donastorg

Mirtha Donastorg is a corps member with Report for America and The Plug's HBCU Innovation Editor and Senior Reporter, exploring start-up initiatives and innovations coming from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as the way students are shaping the future of tech. She previously worked as an associate producer and a researcher for CNN.