New York Urban League

Igniting interest in the shaping of a prosperous, competitive African economy


In the summer of 2010, the New York Urban League approached The Wakeman Agency to provide media relations services for its 40th Annual Football Classic. The game, which is considered one of the hallmark events, provides funds for the League’s Whitney M. Young, Jr., scholarship program.

In recent years, the game had lost its luster and attendance was down by more than 20%.
We were retained 30 days prior to the event date with the directive to generate pre-event and event day awareness via media relations. While the event had a dedicated group of core attendees who had attended the event for many years, it was not generating the level of excitement that it had in past years, thereby not attracting new supporters. This was primarily a problem of messaging.

One of the key messages that was not being communicated to the NYUL core audiences was the importance of their support; ticket purchases were direct revenue for the scholarship fund.

In pitching the media, we focused on simple ways that supporters could contribute to the scholarship program at all financial levels; human interest stories about generational support of the game; the historic tradition of the game and the direct impact to families and communities when students were able to go to college.

By clarifying the messaging, we were able to effectively educate people about the impact of the game and reignite support for this annual signature event.
More than 40,000 people attended the game.


  • Increase in attendance of 23% Increased understanding of the value of the game Additional exposure for sponsors Conversations online about the game
  • The State of Education in Africa Conference had sold-out attendance
  • We effectively ignited interest among attendees to participate in the shaping of a prosperous, competitive African economy
  • The conference was so successful that AAI is hosting a second conference

The Challenge

The need for outreach campaigns within Africa and the rest of the international community is clear. Although many of the world’s fastest-growing economies are in Africa, only 5 percent of adults in Africa have enrolled in higher education programs, compared with 69 percent of North Americans and Europeans. Additionally, 60 percent of Africa’s youth are unemployed, despite the fact that they comprise nearly 40 percent of the working-age population.

For the United States and other industrialized nations, bolstering developing countries is not only beneficial from a global economic standpoint; it also is vital for helping these countries to be self-sufficient and to retain a competitive workforce that satisfies their employment needs.

AAI and The Wakeman Agency partnered up to convey this message to the people of Africa as well as to Americans who are interested in getting involved in revolutionizing the economic culture of Africa. We are honored to work with AAI to effectively market its goals and facilitate events that spark a life-changing passion among Africa’s youth and other interested parties.

The Strategy

AAI is working to address Africa’s educational and professional disparities to help Africans navigate the opportunities that currently exist, as well as to prepare them to compete in an increasingly ambitious marketplace. The task involves honing existing talent in addition to encouraging youth and adults alike to obtain 21st-century training, which will ultimately get them in the driver’s seat of their growing economies.

The Wakeman Agency places a high priority on implementing AAI’s vision in a way that garners support and reinforces the positive impact of its transformative programs. In support of AAI’s mission, we recently produced two of its premier events—the Talent Summit and the State of Education in Africa Conference—which entailed the identification of potential speakers, theme building, creation of course descriptions, outreach to speakers and panelists, and traditional event planning services.

The Talent Summit connected individuals who were interested in working in Africa-focused STEM fields with potential employers from the corporate, government and nonprofit sectors. This multi-platform event provided networking opportunities as well as a study of how the growth of the healthcare, technology and skilled labor sectors are shaping Africa’s economy. Attendees interfaced with representatives from such organizations as the Global Access Health Network, Face2Face Africa, General Electric Africa, Tiphub Africa, and many others.

The State of Education in Africa Conference explored various approaches to strengthening education institutions in Africa and improving the quality of education at all levels. The event united educators and innovators from both Africa and the United States behind the goal of developing Africa’s global competitiveness through a more comprehensive, higher-quality education system. Speakers included Patrick G. Awuah Jr., founder and president of Ashesi University College in Ghana; Tade Akin Aina, program director of Higher Education and Libraries in Africa at the Carnegie Corporation; and a number of panelists and professionals.

The Results

Both the summit and the conference were tremendous successes. The approximately 80 job candidates who attended the Talent Summit greatly benefited from networking with top recruiters, leading to many employment opportunities and a keen understanding of Africa’s educational and professional potential.

The State of Education in Africa Conference had sold-out attendance and enthusiastic reviews from the roughly 150 attendees. In fact, the conference was so successful that AAI is hosting a second conference, which we look forward to producing next year in Africa. Through targeted messaging and theme building, we effectively ignited interest among attendees to participate in the shaping of a prosperous, competitive African economy, building that success from the ground up.

As AAI continues to craft more programs that focus on workforce development in Africa and promote an influx of talent to the continent, The Wakeman Agency is committed to conveying AAI’s mission to be an impactful forum on Africa’s economic revitalization.

Contact us to explore how our strategic communications expertise will help shape the trajectory of your organization’s work towards meaningful impact.