Whether you’re old enough to remember the release of the movie Boomerang 30 years ago this month, or you were introduced to the cult classic after Lena Waithe’s comedic BET spinoff, there’s no denying that Black professionals in marketing are a powerful force. But in the United States, Black employees comprise just 5.8 percent of the total make-up of the marketing industry. And of those, the vast majority are in non-management positions.

With the global digital advertising and marketing industry expected to reach $786.2 billion by the year 2026, the stats suggests Black professionals are being left out of a potentially lucrative career. To address the need for greater diversity in the industry, McDonald’s and the Marcus Graham Project (MGP) welcomed 13 aspiring marketers of color into MGP’s summer iCR8 Bootcamp earlier this month. During the 11-week immersive experience taking place in Los Angeles, participants will work as an integrated team to impact real-life marketing campaigns for McDonald’s.

"The longstanding drastic underrepresentation of Black professionals in the marketing industry underscores the importance of training programs like our iCR8 Bootcamp," said Lincoln Stephens, Co-Founder and Chairman of the Marcus Graham Project. "As we celebrate our 15-year anniversary, we are crystal clear about how lives and career paths can drastically change when immersed in real-world learning. This is why we are honored to work with McDonald's to provide Bootcamp participants with invaluable insider knowledge and experience they can use in careers in marketing and media." 

Diversifying the talent pipeline comes with equipping young professionals with training, mentorship, and 1:1 coaching from McDonald’s executives and agency partners with years of industry experience. They also receive real-world workforce exposure as they deliver tangible marketing and communications output. By the end of the program, they will have the opportunity to present their work at McDonald’s HQ in Chicago in front of decision-making executives and have the chance to interview for a select number of internships and entry-level roles with two of McDonald’s partner marketing and PR agencies.

So far, the program, in its fourth week, has proven transformational. “In dealing with imposter syndrome, I struggle with giving myself grace. However, in these last few weeks of the iCr8 Bootcamp, I have finally allowed myself to see the potential in myself that others close to me have already seen,” Isaiah Belvin, a strategist from Somerset, New Jersey tells EBONY. “This Bootcamp gives me the reassurance that I belong in the marketing industry as a Black professional gamechanger." 

Sonny Mercer, a strategist from Cleveland, Ohio says the program has offered valuable insight while helping to establish herself as a self-assured businesswoman. “The workshops and client projects helped reestablish my confidence as a Black professional by building my life, network and career trajectory,” asserts Mercer. “I'm just getting started and excited about the next chapter.”

A spokesperson for McDonald’s says the partnership “reflects McDonald’s work in communities of color,” including scholarships for HBCU students among many other initiatives centered around educational opportunity and financial equity.