Defender Exclusive: Marcus Davis, scores Pepsi commercial promoting Black businesses

Marcus Davis

Local businessowner Marcus Davis (the breakfast klub, Reggae Hut, Kulture, Alley Kat and more) is not only in a new Pepsi commercial but provides the voiceover work. 

The spot is part of a $400 million commitment by Pepsi to support Black restaurants and inspire others to do the same.

The Defender spoke to Davis about the commercial and his work with Pepsi.

Defender: How did you get in the commercial, and how did your voice become the voice of the spot?

Marcus Davis: It’s funny you say it. You know, I have voice heroes—Morgan Freeman, James Earl Jones, the Allstate guy and Keith David. I was on radio for 10 years. You and I shared some time on radio together on several occasions. But when I first did radio, I was like, “Wow, this is amazing.” And then when I did the voiceover, I was like, “Wow, this is amazing” because I actually started working on stuff like that as a drive-thru cashier at a fast-food restaurant. The God’s honest truth. 

I would put the headset on, and when the cars pulled up, I would say, “Thank you for choosing us today. Would you like to try number one, number two or number three?” And people would say, “Oh, I thought this was a recording.” And after people would say that after so many times, I was like, “You got something here you need to work with.” So I long had aspirations of doing voiceover work, and I still do. Yeah. My great dream wasn’t my only dream. What’s that saying? Your gift will make room for you? My gift as an entrepreneur has made room for other things, feeding into my passion to be on radio and to use the voice that God gave me to do commercials and so on and so forth.

Defender: How did Pepsi find you?

Davis: So, actually, Pepsi found me through a referral when they were looking to put their advisory council together. Pepsi made a $400 million commitment to support Black restaurants, and $50 million going specifically to restaurants and platforms that help restaurants build and grow and sustain themselves. And so, I was referred by a company, as a person who could serve on the council to help them with the mission and their message and the method. I’m grateful that somebody picked up the phone and said, “Hey, I know somebody that I think should be on that board.” And they gave me a call and I did an interview. And, next thing you know, I’m on the board. I tell people, your name, your work, can carry you a long way.

When I would go to schools and talk to students, I would tell them, if you do the right thing, be a person of character and a person of integrity, you never know when it’s going to pay off down the line. When I was working in corporate America, when I got my big, big, big promotion, from the regular to the six-figure salary, it came from the guy who gave me a job when I was 15-years-old. He and I hadn’t talked in years. He just remembered the kid that he had met 10 years prior. And then he confessed to me that he had been following my career. So, when he got a phone call from the president of the company about me, he spoke highly of me. So, I was fortunate that someone thought highly of the work that we’ve (the breakfast klub) been doing, building community here in Houston, and thought that my voice would be a voice that could benefit this initiative.

So, Pepsi gave me a call and we responded. So, I was working with them, and then somebody said, “Why don’t we have Marcus do the voiceover?” And I was like, “Yeah. Good morning, good morning, good morning. Welcome to Sunday Morning Live on Majic 102.1.” 

Defender: How did you film it during the pandemic?

Davis: When this first started, I went around and looked at best practices because I told my team that this was not something that we’re going to take lightly. We’re not going to try and just satisfy the minimum requirements. A top priority was safety for ourselves and safety for, you know, we hold the public’s trust when you have a space where the public interacts. They are trusting you. So, we wanted to make sure we did a good job at honoring the trust that the people have put in us. So, I applauded and admired people who had, you know, had great practices in place for safety.

I have to applaud Pepsi because they went all out to make sure that there was a protocol and that it was possible. There was a person on staff. That was a job specifically to make sure that all of the COVID protocols were followed…

And we made sure that were tested and all that kind of good stuff. So, it was great. And if you look at the scenes that I’m in or my team is in, most of them are just single shots of a single person, and the rest were the camera folks, and they were all masked up.

Defender: What’s been your personal experience as a business owner during the pandemic?

Davis: Growth. The pressure that develops the diamond. And that’s not to take lightly the loss that people have experienced during COVID. But I got to tell you, I share with entrepreneurs and I probably shared it with you at the beginning, now is the time to determine who you are as an entrepreneur. What’s in you? What are you made of? Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to flourish in regular times, but the real key, real question is whether or not you have the ability to do that when the pressure’s on. Can you make the shot with three seconds left on the clock?

Can you be trusted with the ball in your hands? Early on in my career, as I read about different companies and looked at different business leaders, one set of business leaders or CEOs that I admired were the ones who had the ability to bring their company back from the brink of disaster, or to sustain their company during a very tumultuous time. And it’s so crazy. My 2018 book was a book called, “Forged in Crisis.” It was a book about historical leaders who had shown their leadership skills during times that were very challenging… So, I read the book and next thing you know, within a year, we have a crisis that calls for true leadership.

Defender: What do you hope the commercial accomplishes?

Davis: I hope that it accomplishes what the mission is, which is to highlight Black-owned restaurants, to showcase the gifts, the skills, the talents. Business is challenging as it is. But there’s a special category for Black-owned businesses that don’t have access to some of the resources to start the business or sustain the business. And that’s not to say other restaurants don’t have challenges, but historically in this nation, African Americans have always had that barrier that’s been placed in front of him. And a lot of it has to do with economics. So, I am hopeful that this effort, this commercial, this movement will inspire folks to want their fellow Americans to do well that happened to be Black, business owners of Black restaurants, and go out and support those businesses, elevate those businesses, build those business in order to sustain those businesses, so those businesses can then sustain their community.

You know, we’re talking about cooperative economics, right? One of the Kwanzaa principles. We’ve got to find a way to build those businesses strong enough so that they can go out and empower their community. And, I know people have a lot of solutions on how we close the wealth gap or how we get over that economic hurdle in our community. And I have to say small business is it. I’m biased because I’m a businessman. But I know business takes care of politics. Business takes care of education and any other social programs that you have going on. Our door gets knocked on regularly. Our email gets hit regularly because people need to have their programs and their projects funded. And one way you can do that is to make sure that your businesses are strong enough. You gather those pennies, those dimes, those nickels together in one place. And if you have a responsible entrepreneur there, that responsible entrepreneur can go out and re-distribute those investments back into the community, the dividends.

Check out the Jan 7, 2021 print edition of the Defender to learn more about Marcus Davis’ work on Pepsi’s advisory board, other Texas members of that board, and what the board seeks to accomplish.