Nimbus creates value with close client relationships and culturally significant work
Nimbus, a Black-owned agency in Louisville, Kentucky, was deeply affected by Breonna Taylor’s death at the hands of local police last year. Aside from the personal hurt, the agency’s office was vandalized during protests—an event it viewed as part of the necessary outpouring of grief to bring awareness to the situation.
“We took it as a time to not only educate and inform ourselves and our team members, but to also educate our clients about why the work that we do is so important,” says Chief Strategy Officer and Managing Partner Dawn Wade. “It’s not just about putting people of color in campaigns—it’s that representation matters.”
When the news broke that a grand jury had declined to charge the officers who shot and killed Taylor, Wade was on a call with the agency’s biggest client, Papa John’s. She burst into tears in frustration. “I said to them, ‘In this moment, I feel like my life is not as important as yours.’”
That level of unreserved honesty is rare in a client relationship, but it’s one of the reasons the pizza chain brought on Nimbus as its multicultural agency of record in the first place. In the wake of Papa John’s founder John Schnatter’s departure after his use of a racial slur, the company began a difficult but crucial transformation, including a Nimbus-facilitated partnership with board member and franchisee Shaquille O’Neal.
In 2020, the agency was tasked with a campaign to hire 20,000 delivery drivers, as well as the re-release of the fan favorite cheeseburger pizza. Nimbus tapped Grammy-nominated rapper and Louisville native Jack Harlow because of his love for the brand, even before he became famous.
But that’s only one significant effort from the shop, which last year grew revenue 44% to $5 million.
During the pandemic, experiential work went from weekly events to nothing overnight. To compensate, the agency created programs such as “Culture Shakers,” a campaign for Jack Daniel's that brought a small cadre of Black and Brown bartenders to the brand’s Tennessee distillery for tastings to inspire new cocktail recipes that tapped into each of their individual and cultural palates. Four videos featuring Afro-Latina singer Amara La Negra ran during Hispanic Heritage Month.
“We should be a part of these conversations because you’re selling to these folks, but we need to do that in an intentional, authentic way and not just do it because we want to create profit. We want to create value in those communities,” Stacey Wade says. “We’re a part of these communities. You’re a part of these communities. These people need to be heard.”