With minority buying power now topping $1 trillion, companies are scrambling to reach a segment of that population known as "urban culture"--a blend of blacks, Hispanics and whites who embrace hip-hop style.
"We knew corporate marketing departments didn't have the resources we had to reach this group," says Carl Washington, 40. He and Damon Haley, 39, left marketing jobs at Nike and Reebok to form Urban Marketing Corp. of America in Los Angeles in 1999.
Nike hired them out of the box to find new ways to promote its products. UMCA created a special event for Nike--a basketball competition where street players competed for the title and DJs called the action. More than 500 people attended. Nike was thrilled, and more corporate clients soon followed, pushing 2004 sales to $10 million.
UMCA's latest project? Promoting Paramount Classic's hip-hop drama Hustle & Flow, with Terrence Howard and Anthony Anderson, premiering in July.