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Brands Supporting Diversity Through Mentorship

Brands Supporting Diversity Through Mentorship

Now is an interesting time for our industry. There are tons of students starting their sports marketing and sponsorship careers who are trying to navigate what’s next. So we at MKTG Canada wanted to profile some of the best and brightest up and coming students in the sport and event industry and turn the pen on our company blog over to them. In the coming weeks, we will publish thinking from students breaking into the industry. We have enjoyed the experience chatting with them, sparring over ideas, and giving them builds on their work. We are proud to profile their words and talents and we hope you enjoy reading them. Know a student who wants to be profiled in these pages? Are you a student yourself? Get in touch with us @mktg_canada on Instagram.

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About the Author

Jamal is an aspiring sports photographer from Toronto, Canada. He is currently a Marketing student at York University and has worked with brands such as Lululemon, Puma Hoops, REDMILES, and more. Jamal is proud to be from Toronto’s Jane and Finch; he is a mentor in his community and aspires to help the youth of Jane and Finch through storytelling and media arts programming. 


  • Sponsored mentorship programs are a great and authentic way for brands to give back to their communities

  • Mentorship programs, or programs through which brands can offer career mentorship, drive real value for youth at a crucial time in their lives

  • Representation is key, and mentorship can be life-changing – when brands implement effective sponsorship and mentorship programming that addresses specific issues which actively inhibit particular groups of humans from thriving, they can create lasting impact

Editor’s note: Jamal is a talented, motivated, and inspiring sports photographer from Toronto, Canada. Above are some examples of his amazing work.

Mentorship plays a huge role in my life as it drives real impact for youth like me during vital stages of growth. Coming from one of Toronto’s toughest neighborhoods, mentorship has helped me grow in all aspects of my life and has allowed me to gain knowledge from beyond the classroom. For brands, sponsoring mentorship programs can provide an incredible opportunity to both drive real impact for youth and provide access to up-and-coming talent. It’s arguably one of the most authentic endeavors a brand can undertake, particularly regarding supporting communities of colour.

In this blog I will explore some impactful mentorship experiences I have had, as well as some great examples of mentorship and career guidance initiatives from brands in the marketplace.

The Kickback Organization


The most impactful mentors I have are through The Kickback, a non-profit community organization based in Toronto. The Kickback connects youth through sneakers. Utilizing sneakers and sneaker culture enables youth from different backgrounds to engage in non-traditional yet educational experiences.  Being a part of The Kickback since the summer of 2018, I was able to navigate an uncertain part of my life. Going into my last year of high school and even entering University, I felt that there was a lot of outside noise and pressure, but my mentors at The Kickback reminded me to pursue what I love and to find ways to connect my passion with the skills I’m good at. When I was in school, I found that most people didn’t tell me to chase my dreams, instead I was told to take a safe route to ensure I can support myself. The Kickback is the voice that has helped me recognize the tools I need to find success while still pursing my passions.

The Kickback has helped me with little things, such as lending me a book to read or giving me feedback with my photography, to big opportunities like travelling to Portland, Oregon & Puerto Rico which allowed me to  see what’s beyond my neighbourhood. I am always grateful for Christian, Jamal, Quinton, Anoke and all the amazing people I consider mentors at The Kickback. I’m thankful for everything and want to pass the knowledge they’ve given me to those who are younger than I am, or face the same obstacles I have faced.

adidas’ Business of Sneakers Panel hosted by Foot Locker Canada taught youth about career opportunities in the sneaker business

A meaningful example of mentorship that I experienced was through MKTG and adidas for the “Business of Sneakers” panel hosted by Foot Locker Canada. The team invited youth from The Kickback to a panel event featuring four local creators and people who work in the sneaker business to provide their first-hand perspective on how to develop your career. I was able to network with sneaker industry professionals and listen to the different paths they took to get where they are today. I learned the importance of applying job skills, such as building your personal brand, expanding your network, and working hard to achieve your goals. Also, I learned about how life skills can be used in the workforce such as resilience and dedication. The one thing I most enjoyed about the event was hearing personal stories of those in an industry I aspire to work in. Understanding how those in the panel were able to navigate and get to where they are now showed me the work you must be willing to put in to get to where you want to be.

Monday Girl’s Mentorship Program for Black Women+, supported by Scotiabank, speaks to the importance of representation for Black women

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Another great example of a sponsored mentorship program is Monday Girl’s Mentorship Program for Black Women+, supported by Scotiabank. The 4-week program launched this month, and will feature digital events, coaching, and mentorship to support 20 deserving Black Women+ in the GTA, and provide the opportunity for them to network with Toronto's most influential female entrepreneurs and professionals from a diverse range of industries. This initiative amplifies Black female leadership, and works towards bridging the gap of support for Black females regarding professional developing, opportunity, and access to mentors who look like them. Scotiabank will lead a masterclass for the group, offering their valuable expertise, creating an opportunity for employee engagement.

RBC’s Mentorship Programs address inequities faced by immigrants to Canada


RBC joined forces with TRIEC to form a career mentorship program for new Canadians because while many arrive to Canada with extensive work experience and significant education, they struggle to find employment that puts their skills to good use. While not necessarily focused directly on youth, this mentorship program addresses a real issue for new Canadians, and I think the best mentorship programs are the ones that address a problem specific to individual demographics. That way, mentorship programs are executed in meaningful manners that drive real impact.

Pensole Sneaker Academy by D’Wayne Edwards improves racial diversity in sneaker design


D'Wayne Edwards, the founder of Pensole Academy, wanted to help aspiring sneaker designers from various walks of life and overcome multiple barriers, such as gender inequality or financial and socioeconomic boundaries. The sneaker design school is free to enroll, lowering the barrier to entry for many people who might not otherwise we able to afford design school. Through this, Pensole aims to increase diversity in the predominantly white sneaker industry. Since 2010, 475 of Pensole graduates have gone on to fulltime employment or other forms of opportunities such as internships at sneaker and clothing companies globally. Through D’Wayne and his team’s selfless mentorship and willingness to hold brands accountable through sponsored investments and hiring practices, hundreds of students-turned-sneaker-designers have seen success, who might otherwise not have had the opportunity.

POV 3rd Street provides Toronto’s youth with mentorship in film

POV 3rd Street is a non-profit organization in Toronto tailored towards at-risk youth (aged 18 to 29) and helps them gain the necessary skills to acquire jobs and build long-term careers in the film and media industry. The program teaches young adults to express themselves and tell their stories using the medium of filmmaking; POV 3rd can provide film school-quality education for those who might not be able to attend a higher education in film. They have alumni flourishing in the industry and have developed a graduation rate of 87%, where 71% of graduates are still involved in the program. POV3rd street offers a wide variety of applications such as Media training, production assistant training, and an alumni network. This program would not have been possible for its many sponsors including Corus Entertainment.

Mentorship can be life-changing – when brands implement effective sponsorship and mentorship programming that addresses specific issues which actively inhibit particular groups of humans from thriving, they can drive true impact. Mentorship programs like the ones above also give brands access to top-tier diverse talent, give youth of colour the opportunity to connect with successful people who look like them, and the opportunities to strategically align brand objectives through mentorship programs are virtually endless. Through mentorship, I’ve been able to leverage what I’ve learned and tell better stories from my community. Mentorship helps young people beat the odds in industries that are difficult to get into, offering incredibly experiences that give youth platforms to tell their story, and inspire them to achieve greatness.

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