Many brands have put the spotlight on Black communities in the U.S. since George Floyd was murdered by a police officer last year. But few have emphasized the idea of Black excellence as strongly as Hennessy has in “Dear Destiny,” the cognac brand’s newest ad campaign that was lent an inspiring hand from hip-hop star Nas.
Based a letter from Nas—full name: Nasir Jones—to his daughter Destiny, the spot retells the history of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood District, a once-thriving Black neighborhood in the city often called “Black Wall Street” that was burned to the ground by white supremicists in 1921. Now, 100 years later, Hennessy wants to recapture the ambition of that community that exemplified Black excellence.
“Dear Destiny,” the ad, narrated by Nas himself, opens. “I wanted you to see something I never saw; feel something our family had never grasped: Black excellence. Something like the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921.” Vibrant portrayals of life on Black Wall Street, coupled with archival footage, show the power of the community in the ad, which reminds viewers that Greenwood’s creation was as intentional as its downfall.
The commercial was created by Uninterrupted, a production brand under the umbrella of Black-owned entertainment firm SpringHill Company, which is helmed by National Basketball Association great LeBron James and his longtime business partner Maverick Carter.
“I think where we are today and where we were 100 years ago … not a lot has changed in terms of sentiment,” says Carter, who serves as the CEO of SpringHill. For him, Black history and American history are inseparable—an idea that lent itself to the “empowering” message of the new commercial.
The “Dear Destiny” campaign marks the launch of Hennessy’s Never Stop Never Settle Society, a growth accelerator co-created with the Marcus Graham Project that will ensure Black entrepreneurs receive the resources, funding and infrastructure necessary to expand their businesses and help their communities prosper.
“We looked at [the Never Stop Never Settle Society] as a brand and a message that we thought we could really nail from a creative standpoint,” Carter says, calling the Hennessy assignment a “perfect opportunity” for Uninterrupted. The new campaign is the first creative collaboration between the storied cognac brand and SpringHill, although the two had been in talks for a while, Carter adds.
“This idea of supporting Black excellence has been a part of who we are forever,” says senior VP of Hennessy U.S. Jasmin Allen, who’s the first Black woman to hold a role at that level in the company’s history.
Applications for the initiative open April 6 with finalists due to be notified in June; winners will be selected by an advisory council of Moët Hennessy USA and Marcus Graham Project leaders and receive lump sums of $50,000 each to further their entrepreneurial goals. (That leaves room for about 20 finalists, with Hennessy contributing a total of $1 million to the initiative, Allen says.)
The “Dear Destiny” ad is slated to debut tonight during the 52nd annual NAACP Image Awards on BET, which will be immediately preceded by an in-show vignette from Nas formally announcing the creation of the Never Stop Never Settle Society.
This campaign’s rollout is currently confined to BET’s properties as well as other social and digital platforms, including those in the control of Nas, SpringHill and Hennessy, but the company is keen to explore “additional amplification in the future,” Allen adds.
“Our goal with this is to, first of all, continue to show Hennessy’s continued support for the Black community,” she says, noting the brand’s long-standing reputation with Black Americans. Hennessy was the first spirits brand to advertise in Ebony magazine in 1951 and helped found the Tuskegee Institute in the 1890s.
The Never Stop Never Settle Society will be anchored by a Black entrepreneurship hub that will open in late 2021 at Moët Hennessy’s new Lower Manhattan headquarters. The space at 7 World Trade Center is planned to be multifunctional, serving as everything from a co-working space with an in-house content studio to a venue that hosts educational programming and events.
Qualified applicants will also have access to the Gathering Spot Connect, a Black-owned digital hub that offers networking and business development resources, starting next month.
In the spirit of the Never Stop Never Settle Society, Hennessy is also planning some “on the ground” activities in Tulsa to mark the 100th anniversary of the Greenwood massacre this June, though Allen remains tight-lipped on details for the time being.