C-tribe Live

It was a great honour to attend the C-Tribe Festival last week in Edmonton.

No alt text provided for this image

Created and curated by my friend Sahr Saffa, C-Tribe brought together a compelling cohort of thinkers, innovators, and collaborators. I learned, I shared, and yes, I cried. 

No alt text provided for this image

My favourite moment was hearing the magical words of Titilope Sonuga, poet laureate of Edmonton and a childhood friend of Sahr’s. Titi’s message of seizing power and having faith encouraged the voices of others who followed her on stage. 

Nikiesha Lawson, from the Black Talent Initiative, orchestrated a beautiful panel on Employee Resource Groups, featuring Emiliano Void, founder of nuwave Equity.

No alt text provided for this image

I also enjoyed hearing from Dr. Robin Mazumder, a Vanier scholar, about how physical environments impact diversity, Jacqui Regenbogen from Sauce Labs on tackling DEI differently across global markets, and Deloitte’s Olaolu Adeleye teaching me what diaspora truly means. 

C-Tribe also attracted speakers and attendees from RBC, Innovate Calgary, and Mitacs, along with dozens of entrepreneurs and investors. While I only attended the Festivals’ conference portion, along with a superb fashion show, the event rolled into music, gaming, and more fashion for the weekend.

No alt text provided for this image

C-Tribe is a hidden gem in an emerging gem of a city, that you should consider mining in the future. I share the C-Tribe Manifesto with you to get you pumped for the 2023 event.

C-Tribe Manifesto

We are the misfits, but not the misfortunate. 

The underestimated, but not the under-deserving. 

Rough around the edges, albeit the diamonds in the rough. 

We’re building a world that’s architected by more and owned by all.

A global village that leads with kindness and breaks down barriers.

A collision of like-minds where no two are alike. 

We are building different. Literally, physically and metaphysically.

A gathering IRL and in the metaverse. Built by the cultural and creative communities.

Celebrate culture. 

Celebrate diversity. 

Help innovative and creative people achieve their dreams.

To those still on the fence, tell them: LFG.

No alt text provided for this image

Open & Shut

I share a curse with my friend Don Mayo.

I find it difficult to attend events without pausing to evaluate the activations, participant journey, signage, and layout. I suspect that we are not alone in this manner. It is probably a curse shared by many of us in this biz. No doubt we owe all of our friends and family we do this to as well!

Last weekend I was very fortunate to attend The Open at St. Andrew’s Links. The Old Course venue lived up to everything you may have seen on television or experienced yourself. Whether it be the milestone or the pandemic, the demand to attend this year was so strong the Royal & Ancient ad to resort to a ballot system for tickets.  I witnessed crowds of many happy attendees who were the lucky winners invited to join a record crowd of nearly 300,000 people. 

St. Andrews is a town of less than twenty-thousand, so the smooth hosting of one of the most prestigious events in the world is an incredible accomplishment. Calling the logistics smooth would be an understatement that does not give the experience due. The Open and the people involved deserve much more than that. From the ScotRail staff handing out free water to visitors to the countless volunteers marshalling the crowds across the fairways, they all deserve a standing ovation. 

This entry is an unofficial Scottish Tourism ad, and if the script for this blog is heading that way, it is deservedly so. It was my first time in Scotland, and somehow every single person we encountered was unbelievable. How can an entire country be s good-natured? Everyone we met from the Fountain Cafe on Grove St, where we had breakfast almost every day, to the young couple from Dundee celebrating their third wedding anniversary with a night out in Edinburgh, to the guest services team at the New Club in St. Andrews to the taxi driver in Eyemouth was the most pleasant, welcoming and gracious folks I have ever met. (PS  the “New Club’ in St. Andrews is a golf club founded in 1902. So relatively new by Scottish golf standards.)

Maybe it was the sun; we had a flawless week of weather; the end of BJ’s reign as British Prime Minister, which only came up every five minutes; or the aversion of a Tran strike; the people were happy happy happy. 

So, Mark, is that the secret to a great event? Have happy people involved? Maybe I say. The British Open was a smooth operation far beyond the logistics. The merchandise shop was a mall-sized footprint that felt like an Apple store for souvenirs. The Loch Lomond Whiskey bar execution was so flawless that you never stood in line for a cocktail. Lack of lineups also characterized the restrooms, the free onsite phone charging, and even the shuttle bus. 

There I go again about the logistics, but details done right with a smile are worth mentioning. Again and again. 

The Mountain Is Calling

What mountainous challenge are you facing today? Is inflation, talent shortages, or your mental health blowing directly in your face? Perhaps the mountain you’re facing is the one you have yet to recognize fully. 

2022 is your year to climb the mountain, but you can’t do it alone. I believe wholeheartedly that a lonely journey is a trip that will lead to nowhere. All of us need guides, mentors, coaches, and sponsors. 

I have assembled a cast of advocates for you to meet at SponsorshipX Whistler. I am thrilled to be back in real life with the conference magic we have created since 2005. So join us in the mountains as we connect, collaborate, and celebrate one another. I can promise you inspiration, development, and belonging. I can promise you that in spades. 

First off, our setting is magical. It’s Whistler during Crankworx, the world’s largest mountain biking festival featuring the Red Bull Joyride. It’s a magical setting with a bonkers event on top and a fantastic vibe for an exclusive event where you can build unbelievable lifelong relationships. Relationships that will propel your career, your brand, your company and your trajectory. We don’t do networking events. Instead, we do Yoga, Biking, Hiking, and patio takeovers. 

Our conference sessions are in gondolas high above the firm terrain, and our workshops are in the retail environment throughout the village. Oh, we have a conference center, but it’s in a grove next to a lake and accessible by bike from the town. Even better, we will supply the cycle for you. 

The venues are as unique as our speakers. We are going to hear about the future of Electrification from GM, understand how ARC’TERYX does product innovation, brainstorm how to use partnerships to create more opportunities for women in sport, and hear why RE/MAX chose the NBA. 

Want more? How about new activation ideas for Golf Canada, social Justice initiatives from Blacks in Sports Business, Black Beyond Sport, and Indspire. We are going to tackle everything from how to organize your sponsorship assets to tackling mental health challenges. 

I am so inspired to write these words to you. I believe in the power of connection and relationships, and real-life engagement. I think the relationships we build make us all stronger. 

So take the time for yourself to tackle this mountain; we will meet you at the bottom and help you get to the top.

What Can You Learn in Fifteen Seconds?

The Fifteen Seconds Festival in Graz takes its name from the importance of the first fifteen seconds in any encounter – a meeting, a date, a presentation. So within the first Fifteen Seconds of this blog, I am going to tell you I was fortunate enough to attend this fantastic event again last week and therefore am inspired to share a series of fifteen-second learnings shared by people I met and sessions I heard. 
So pick one from the stack below and enjoy a very expedited masterclass. 

@Nina Meuller – the importance of making Failure Your Friend. Start by doing a premortem before starting any transformation, campaign or project. 

@George Nimeh – we should do more presentations about the good that came out of the pandemic and not just the bad. 
@Aurel Hosenenn – the power of being of understanding yourself through meditation, solo retreats, and self-care. 
@Emilie Colker – design is crucial to reframing and solving problems 
@Sandy Heydt – people over profits, people over profits, people over profits. 

@Allan Dransfield – not to be afraid of random strangers 
@Eena Kim – you need to ensure your branding does not lose its soul
@Tamas Trunk – to have faith in Gen Z to save our world

@Stoyan Yankov – productivity is not about efficiency; it is a state of mind. 

@Samantha Yarwood – losing everything during the pandemic was a blessing. 
@Alex Brueckmann – JOMO (joy of missing out) over FOMO
@Laurent Petit – you can do good for yourself and the planet simultaneously. 

See you in Fifteen Seconds!


With Sponsorship X returning to Whistler this August I thought it was fitting to repost some of our great times captured in my 2018 blog post:

Dear Whistler;

Thank you for being such an enchanting hostess for sponsorshipX.

“This was the 3rd sponsorshipX conference I attended and the best one yet. The workshops were insightful and the networking opportunities were second to none. In addition to establishing some great business contacts, I came home with a few new friends”

Your twin mountains embraced my sponsorshipX friends with passion.
Your rugged beauty and massive peaks challenged our souls.
Your endless skies, filled with sun and smoke, inspired us.

“It was an outstanding conference hosted in an amazing part of our country. I thought the topics were incredibly relevant, presented by engaging individuals.  I learned a lot and made many great connections.”

You were the perfect hostess.

Perfect because your mountains provided an apt metaphor for our conference theme. Perfect because your mountains provided an arena for our delegates to become bikers, hikers, and zip liners. Perfect because you challenged every person at sponsorshipX to challenge themselves in new ways they never thought possible.

“…this was the most impactful conference that we’ve been to. Everybody was excited to be there, open to chat and learn, and generally easy to engage with.” 

When I decided two years ago that you would be the first ever hostess of sponsorshipX, my only hope was that you would speak to everyone, the way you did to me. I was wrong about that. You sang to them. You sang to them in a way that the lyrics they heard were different for each of them, yet the tune was familiar. You made it personal. You made it powerful. You made it real.

Dear Whistler. I know my thanks are something that would be shared by all of our sponsorshipX guests. You can see the gratitude in these pictures I have shared. You can sense your impact in the words that I have shared. You can feel the gratitude in this message I have shared.

“Many thanks to all of you, and the entire T1 team for pulling off such an incredible and engaging conference… was off the charts and think you nailed not only the spectacular venue, but the approach to snack sized content was ideal.”

All I have to left to say is that I can’t wait to come back to you.


Head Coach, sponsorshipX

Sunrise, Sunrise

Sunrise, sunrise

Looks like mornin’ in your eyes.

Thanks to Ally Love, the words of Norah Jones sang through my pods this morning as my feet feverishly worked my Peloton. Jones’ ballad opened my eyes and finally unlocked much of what I felt these past few weeks. 

Like so many, I have been searching for the words to express my personal take on the anguish happening worldwide. But my hands were blocked by the self-doubt of who am I to try to find words to help others get through another day. (Credit to Ms. Jones for my poaching more of her lyrics.)

It is with sadness for me to think of the many people that will never see a sunrise again or get to share it with a lost loved one. 

Mornings are so inspiring. This past weekend on my first visiting New Brunswick, a group of us was up at 5:30 AM in St. Martins to see the sun emerge and the tide retreat across Quaco Bay. It did not disappoint. 

I love the sun because I love mornings. I am inspired by the mystery that every day brings and the opportunities to rewrite my personal script. To achieve more. Course correct. To regain a lost friend or meet a new collaborator. 

This week many of my friends and colleagues at CAMH, Sun Life, and the Mh3 Collective are rising with the sun to raise money for mental health research. Every day we lose people to suicide in this country. Every day families are devastated by the loss of a loved one. Every day millions of people face depression and a variety of disorders that impact their mental, physical, and emotional health.

I knew this week I was planning to financially and emotionally support my teammates in the Sunrise Challenge virtual fundraiser. But it was not until I heard Jones’ lyrics that these words came to me. I encourage you to listen to her, yourself, and a loved one. I encourage you to participate or support someone participating in the Sunrise Challenge. 

But most of all, I encourage you to speak up if the events in the world are causing you anxiety because they are indeed doing the same to someone who would like to hear from you. 

We can help one another rise.

To donate please check out this website: Sunrise Challenge – Donate | Support CAMH – Sunrise Challenge

Brand U™

A brand is a promise. 

A good brand is a promise kept. 

Do the words of former Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent satisfy your yearning for the answer to the age-old question – what is a brand? If so, I am sure you admire the simplicity of the concept of accountability weaving into his definition. Meeting, frankly exceeding, a consumer’s expectations is really at the heart of what every service, product, and experience pursue. 

This notion of delivering expands far beyond consumer goods to a coverage area of politicians, governments, religious organizations, public services, not-for-profit sports teams, influencers, motivational experts, personal coaches, and entertainers. This list is far from exhaustive. Extending to every entity and now individuals, personal branding is proliferating. 

As we emerge or escape from this cocooned world, the concept of personal brand presents opportunities and challenges for many people. ” The Great Resignation,” or “The Great Sabbatical,” is flaming with fuel from people reevaluating their lives and professional existence. The questions Who Am I and What Do I Do? can only bring answers with a definitive examination of your brand. This discussion, self-examination, is an incredibly challenging exercise. 

Often we think of a personal brand as the public profile of a famous individual. So it makes sense that CEOs are “Promoters” of their company or politicians as “Self-Promoters.” Similarly, Advocates might be labelled “Issue Promoters,” whereas entertainers are often “Talent Promoters.”

However, most of the people reading this post are not famous—a few may be Almost Famous. Many of you have probably seen the movie and wished you were. (If you haven’t seen Almost Famous, please watch it tonight!) Being famous is far from a prerequisite to having a personal brand. Being on social media is also not a prerequisite. The simple math is that you need to have a clearly defined promise of whom you are as an individual. 

Taking this simplistic approach, imagine there are just four Personal Brand Archetypes, although there are many more. This set will allow us to ponder for a moment. The four archetypes could be 1. Connectors, 2. Mentors, 3. Ringleaders, and 4. Peace Makers. It will not take much time for you to think about your collection of friends and family to recognize who the Networker, the Supporter, the Convenor, or the Socializer in your cohort. 

To understand which one you are, ask yourself some simple questions:

  1. What do you do well unconsciously?
  2. What is your story?
  3. Whom do you serve?
  4. Do you have a unique approach?
  5. What is your impact on others?

None of these questions are scientific, nor are they exhaustive. But they will provide a window into your soul, mind, and muscles. They will help you think about who you are. Significantly they will also help you identify who you should be. 

As you navigate 2022 taking the time to understand Brand U™ will be a helpful exercise to equip you to keep the promises you are making and understand what those promises should even contain. 

P.S. for more information about personal branding check out these links below:

  1. Harvard Business Review: What’s the Point of a Personal Brand? by Harrison Monarth
  2. Forbes: Ten Golden Rules of Personal Branding by Goldie Chan
  3. Live Your Message: 13 Strong Personal Brand Examples (+ Actionable Takeaways) by Marisa Murgatroyd
T1 Logo

May 16, 1994 & Beyond

Dear Friends of T1;

I want to thank each of you for the magical support of my team and me. 

Today, T1 turns 28 years young. While the past two years have been demonstrably more challenging than the first twenty-six, we are alive and thriving.

We have you to thank for that. 

Thank you for your faith in us, and we ask for your continued support for the next twenty-eight years!

No birthday is complete without some exciting news, milestones, and updates!  

  1. Today, we are no longer The T1 Agency – we are T1, with a new logo, new purpose statement, and tighter focus. 
  2. Please check out our new logo and brand online.
  3. Our new purpose, Sponsors of Impactful Brands™, is our beacon in supporting people and brands in their missions to impact people, communities, culture and society.
  4. Coupled with our mission of uniting brands with people, we are doing all of this by being a Full-Stack Sponsorship shop with three areas of emphasis: partnership, activation and amplification.
  5. If our focus is full-stack sponsorship, then it must be time to announce the relaunch of SponsorshipX with inspirational events, including Whistler this August and Ontario this Fall, along with training and development programs and a global communal platform. 
  6. Plus, we have BIG news about the world’s favourite sport. As of May 16, we have a new division – T1 Futbol led by Managing Partner – Imran Choudhry and supported by Steve Coakley (VP, Global Partnerships) and Jorge Tatto (Sr. Director, Partnership Strategy)
  7. As Imran is now busy on the pitch (pun intended), I welcome NithyaRamachandran as our (interim) General Manager. She joins Imran, Steve, Catherine Mass, and Christy Cusack (VP, Client Engagement) on the T1 Leadership team. 
  8. Lastly, T1 is now part of MH3 Collective, a group of ventures bonded by a common purpose – Connecting people & ideas to make a social impact. 

While it is time to celebrate business, it goes without saying that I am so proud of the community-building efforts of our teams. To mark our birthday, we ask our friends to support our mission at our not-for-profit school Park Street Education which focuses on removing barriers to education for youth from underserved communities. Today we are trying to raise $28,000 (simple math 1k per year!) to help provide scholarships for two children in the 2022-23 school year. You or your company can donate here. If your social responsibility leaders want further details, please have them reach out, and I will connect them with our team. 

Again, please accept our heartfelt thanks from all T1ers, past, present, and future. 


C the Futur

Much of the work done in social justice focuses on correcting past wrongdoings.

Collecting information and evidence, dealing with pain and emotion, and searching for empathetic partners make Reconciliation a challenging activity. But unfortunately, history is not as straightforward as it should be.

Our future hurtles and even more hurdles than our past, beginning with the simple concept of uncertainty. As we look forward, there will always be factors out of our control, but we cannot use those as an excuse not to work to shape our destiny. The brave and bold say otherwise. They live intentionally and look forward to scripting a better tomorrow.

In Edmonton this July, you have an opportunity to bear witness to those who have a vision for how the African diaspora can build a prosperous tomorrow for our community. This discussion will be central to the C-Tribe Festival and its marquee event, the C-Afrofuturism Conference, July 20-24th.

C-Tribe is the creation of my Black Talent Initiative colleague – Sahr Saffa. He created C-Tribe to promote and champion the influence of many cultural forces on business, fashion, music, technology, and entertainment. Edmonton is his hometown, and proudly the northernmost metropolis in the world is also central to his platform.

Sahr believes in shaping the future, and that is his community. By creating a platform for many diverse people to assemble and collaborate, he brings it to life with meaning and purpose.

We live in a time when social posts and likes are not enough. Today actual change will only be made by those who want to do the work. Magically as hard as a result is, the journey is full of rewards. The roadmap may get fuzzy at times, but the compass never waivers.

Today it points North to Edmonton.

Suppose you have felt the need after two years of isolation and loneliness to gather with your entire self. To unleash your energy and meet others who wish to do the same, I encourage you to participate in the C-Afrofuturism Conference.

It promises to be a forum where you, your company, and your industry can genuinely support the Black community. As our community thrives, it has an amplifier effect on all communities. As a Torontonian, I can say that marketers focus too much on the 416. Canada is the world’s best country not just because of our largest city but also because of Halifax, Orillia and Edmonton.

Bring your soul, investment, and optimism to Edmonton this summer. I will be there to await you with open arms, a high five, and a challenge to shape the future—the Afrofutur of Canada.

Draft Eligible

I must talk about the NFL Draft too much.

Yes, I went to Vegas last week to enjoy the Draft. Yes, I last attended it in 2019, as we staged SponsorshipX alongside the event in Nashville. But, no, I have never been to the NFL Draft at any other time than those two years.

Yet so many people commented to me that I go every year. Nope. Although I plan to go in 2023 to Kansas City, and not just because it is fun, but because I think the Draft provides an excellent lesson for marketers of all types – tourism, media, brand, property, athlete and celebrity. I want to share three thoughts that come to mind from my trip last week.

  1. We can all learn from Vegas Baby. It is incredible how Las Vegas is transitioning from being the capital of the unspoken escape to the sports entertainment capital. Vegas is taking its approach to attracting pro teams, new venues, and now significant events. It is filling gaps in its tourism calendar, leveraging residencies by stars such as John Legend, and expanding the footprint of the strip to new venues such as the Caesars Forum. Throw the hunger for the legalization of sports betting on top, and you can see how the Vegas approach to sports is consistent with its brand and a world apart from a classic sports town such as Chicago.
  2. The Crossover isn’t just a basketball move. I was fortunate to be invited to the NFLPA Pitch Day, where entrepreneurs pitch the union to receive marketing and business support. The judges for the event ranged from Marshall Lunch to WNBA star Tamera Young and 1863 Ventures founder Melissa Bradley. Sponsored by Truist bank, the winner and all finalists receive business consulting support. The grand prize winner was Healium, a startup founded by Sarah Hill. Healium is a new approach to mental wellness that helps you self-manage without medication.
  3. Surprise and annoyance are as exciting as surprise and delight. People love sports because of the absence of a scripted outcome, the result being the performance of players and coaches, shaped by officials, weather, and luck. The Draft is highly unscripted, despite every team entering armed with months and years of player evaluations. But their plans are intertwined with all of the other franchises. Each decision-maker has ten minutes to make their selection after the previous team’s choice, some of which will generate celebrations and others a heap of aggravation. But both generate an ongoing response from their fans and months’ worth of media debate. Brands like to surprise and delight; maybe they should ponder how they can rile up their devotees!

Dissecting the success of other properties is a recommended practice for any sports league, entertainment property, or even a charity event in building an off-season marketing moment like non-other. Do you have a tentpole activity that four months before the season begins creates headline news, electrifies a city, engages its fan base, and collaborates with every business partner? Could your brand benefit from conducting a pre-launch, much like the sales campaign for condo development with ‘Fall 2022 Occupancy’ messaging?

The recipe is right there for the leveraging even though it might take your property time to get there. Even the NFL didn’t expect TV audiences to come when it started broadcasting nationally on ESPN in 1980. The current event format only came about in 2015 after the league turned it into a travelling property. But every property has the elements:

– Future stars and celebrities
– Passionate fan bases
– Activation-starved partners
– Hospitality industry supporters
– News hungry media

Of course, the scale of the NFL may be quite different than yours but think of yourself as the local establishment borrowing secrets from a multinational. It is time for you to do the same.