Issa Rae’s new management company wants to teach creators how to get better brand deals

By 05/06/2024
Issa Rae’s new management company wants to teach creators how to get better brand deals

Issa Rae‘s new company wants to hook up creators and brands for “deeper relationships” beyond the usual influencer-sponsor connection.

Ensemble has already built a network of 50 creators including Drew Afualo, Leo González, and Mark Phillips, and is working with brands including Pepsi, Chili’s, and Popeyes.

Per Business Insider, Ensemble is founded by Rae but is meant to be separate from her public persona as a much-lauded writer, actress, and producer. The company is led by a group of advertising vets–Ian Schafer as cofounder and president, Matt Berger as head of revenue, and Keith Lee as head of revenue operations.


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Montrel McKay, the president of development and production at Rae’s studio Hoorae, told BI the pitch for Ensemble is that it works closely with creators to help them package their content for brands.

“The proposition is that we have deeper relationships with the partners,” he said. “A lot of people are just selling media impressions and matching them with creators. We’re going to teach you how to sell media to these brands and do it in a way that allows you to service your audience.”

(Hoorae has its own talent management arm, ColorCreative, which is separate from Ensemble. It also has a marketing division, Fête, and an audio division, Raedio.)

Ensemble also aims to find and incubate up-and-coming creators, readying them for these big-time deals. “We just see it as an evolution of the next generation of talent discovery, and the path is not obvious,” Schafer said. “People used to look at digital as the minor leagues. It’s very much the major leagues, but the thesis is that the future talent is much more likely to be discovered by audiences and financed by brands.”

It’s already placed González, who has 3 million followers on TikTok, as a spokesperson for Chili’s, and got Dallas Turner (a 2024 draft pick for the Minnesota Vikings who has 90,000 followers on Instagram) a Popeyes sponsorship for his family’s NFL signing celebration.

Another of Ensemble’s goals is closing the pay gap between white creators and creators of color. It cited a 2021 study from MSL that showed Black creators make 35% less money on sponsorship deals than white creators.

But, McKay said, Ensemble also wants “to be seen as a general market company.”

“We want to go after media budgets. We don’t want to go after small allocations that are for diversity buys. That’s why it’s important to work with Pepsi out of the gate,” he said. “[W]e want to show the world, we’re just trying to drive popular culture.”

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