Bringing it all together
August 22, 2010 1:39 pm
Ad man uses firm to connect minorities, corporations
With the physique of a pro football player, the personality of the boy next door and the charm of a big teddy bear, AP & Associates LLC CEO Alan Powell defies the stereotype of “stodgy businessman.”
But underestimating his business acumen would be a mistake. The ad man is known for creating unorthodox partnerships, striking deals that often caught some within the advertising industry off guard.
Deals that landed heavy metal rock band Korn on the BET (Black Entertainment Television) cable network, brought African American singer/actor Tyrese Gibson to the Valley to perform the national anthem at NASCAR and launched niche campaigns that pitched Coors beer to Latinos and Crown Royal Whisky to African Americans.
Those who know Powell aren’t surprised by his nonconformist approach, because he views his business as a liaison between corporate America and minority communities.
His Scottsdale firm specializes in multicultural advertising and marketing campaigns, with AP & Associates’ clients’ roster encompassing just about every form of entertainment – from music to movies, and from TV to sports.
“I had a vision of figuring out non-traditional ways to reach consumers. Implementing more of a diverse marketing concept was key for me,” Powell said.
His Rolodex includes phone numbers for billionaires, entertainers, athletes and trendsetters/innovators, while his speed dial includes celebrities with crossover appeal, such as four-time heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield.But at the end of the day, the Louisville native’s down-home attitude and a knack for building relationships among strangers are the businessman’s most valuable assets.
He credits his ability to relate to those from all walks of life to serving three years in the U.S. Army during Operation Desert Storm.
“Being able to interact with other ethnic groups means being able to take them and put them in my own scenario,” said Powell, who stands a solid 6 feet 6 and 270 pounds.
“I’m cool with everything. I’m cool with everybody.”
When Powell returned home from the military, he wanted a career that involved his passion for sports. An athlete all his life, Powell played guard and forward positions for the basketball team at Missouri Valley College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in sports administration.
After working for other companies in the Midwest, Powell moved to Los Angeles where he became vice president of The Firm, where he specialized in inking deals connecting athletes with the entertainment industry.
He then carried his experience and connections to Dallas, another hotbed of entertainment marketing potential, where he founded AP & Associates in 2004.
Powell’s career soon picked up steam, as companies came calling when they wanted to target a specific advertising demographic, or promoters wanted to attract ethnic groups that typically avoided their events.
He moved his headquarters from Dallas to downtown Scottsdale four years later, because a large metropolitan area with a small African-American population appealed to him. He now has offices in Los Angeles, Cincinnati and New York.
“I saw (where) there were good opportunities,” he said. “Nobody thinks about going into another space (market.) I was able to take them (advertisers) places they didn’t know existed.”
Powell is constantly keeping tabs on the next trend, such as Hurban, a combination of Black urban and Hispanic music. He has taken on NASCAR and is working on launching a signature event at PIR and other projects to showcase the state and “enhance the reputation of Arizona.”
A mutual friend introduced Powell to PIR President Bryan Sperber 1 1/2 years ago. At the time, Sperber was looking to expand NASCAR by widening its appeal among different demographics.
The collaboration brought Gibson and Sheree Whitfield, stars of the reality TV series “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” who drove the ceremonial “kick-off” pace car during the sporting event last fall.
Sperber said he was disappointed with previous attempts to draw entertainers and celebrities to participate in the event – until he hired Powell.
“AP was able to do this effectively by showcasing African-American entertainers and bring that multicultural aspect,” Sperber said. “I’ve never met anyone more connected. He is able to fast-track ideas and bypass the typical bureaucracy that can get in the way.”
Powell said his firm’s flexibility with its strategies and client base has been vital to its success.
He has small-businesses and Fortune 500 companies in his portfolio, and connects people from varied cultural backgrounds and tax brackets who may not always travel in the same circles.
“We can modify or customize and find a way to make them benefit,” Powell said. “I’m very fortunate.”