In addition to performances by Anita Baker, John Legend, Ne-Yo, Lionel Ritchie and others, the festival also has empowerment seminars hosted by artists, clergy, and playwrights, and an "Essence Fest Marketplace" at the New Orleans Convention Center with African-style arts and crafts, New Orleans Creole Food, clothing, art, jewelry, etc.
Ford's participation includes celebrity events, vehicle ride and drives, and broadcasts, auto reveals, and seminar sponsorships. The company will also do community engagement initiatives and sneak peeks at forthcoming products like the 2010 Taurus SHO and 2010 Lincoln MKT Crossover and Ford Fiesta. Ford will offer attendees test drives of the 2010 Ford Fusion and Fusion Hybrid.
Ford will also sponsor a live broadcast of the "Steve Harvey Morning Show" and will give away a Ford Fusion Hybrid as part of its Women Driving Progress Program. Ford's Lincoln division will sponsor the "T.D. Jakes Tribute."
Among the 14 corporate sponsors of the festival this year -- including Ford -- are Covergirl Queen Collection, Wal-Mart, Coors Light, McDonald's, Pantene, MasterCard and Southwest Airlines. Many have been longtime sponsors: Presenting sponsor Coca-Cola partnered with Essence to launch the music festival in 1995 as a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the magazine. McDonald's is also multi-year sponsor. So was General Motors before Ford took auto sponsorship.
General Motors' Chevrolet division was automotive sponsor of the Festival from 2002 to 2008. In 2006, the festival, dubbed "Party with a Purpose," had to be held in Houston because of Katrina, and GM tied its "Revolution to Rebuild" program to the festival after that.