Over the past few years more brands have started to lean harder into more inclusive campaigns. As we look at SuperBowl campaigns for 2021 and 2022, inclusion took a more prominent role. That wasn’t the case in SuperBowl LVII. The celebrity filled ads seemed to have different goals.
Even though it feels like an increasing number of brands are growing colder on their commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging as we move farther away from 2020, the good news is that progress is still being made by those who are committed to the effort.
While inclusion didn’t feel like it was actively considered in the ad campaigns, there were still major wins throughout the event that are worth calling out, as well as one noteworthy ad from the NFL that did hit the mark from an inclusion standpoint.
All-women aviators for pre-game flyover
Even though women have been flying for decades, the images we mostly see around pilots are of men. That’s why it was lovely to not see just a token woman in the crew of aviators doing the pre-game flyover for the game, but an entire crew of women.
As brands work to infuse more representation into the visual imagery they put forth, it is important to not just stop at adding one or two faces of people from underrepresented communities.
Take the opportunity to change the narrative with the message your visual imagery is putting forth. Present alternate ways of being, thriving, and operating that enable more people to see themselves or who they aspire to be represented, not just as supporting characters, but as the lead as well.
Rihanna performs while visibly pregnant
Shortly after the official performance, Rihanna’s representative confirmed what millions of people were speculating about. Rihanna, is pregnant with her second child, becoming the first person to headline a SuperBowl halftime show, while pregnant.
Pregnancy is physically demanding on the body. One study found that being pregnant is like running a 40-week marathon, noting pregnant people reach the same peak levels as ultra endurance athletes. Herman Pontzer, co-auther of the 2019 study, noted that “pregnancy is the most energetically expensive activity the human body can maintain for nine months.”
The significance in representation for people who’ve been, are, or desire to be pregnant was glaring. Another barrier broken, to signify that pregnant people belong in professional settings, and don’t need to put their careers or opportunities on hold if they don’t want to. They can safely perform at the highest levels and on the biggest stages, while also nurturing life inside of them, if they so choose.
The beauty of Rihanna’s performance, was that it didn’t try to ignore or hide the fact that she was pregnant. It was designed in a way to enable her to thrive given her current state, even if that was different from what viewers are long accustomed to seeing.
Thus while breaking barriers, the performance also charted a new path for what success can look like.
Deaf performers in pre-game and at half-time
Songs performed during the pre-game show of SuperBowl included Lift Every Voice and Sing, America the Beautiful, and of course, The Star Spangled Banner, and each featured noteworthy singers, accompanied by Colin Denny, Troy Kotsur, and Justina Miles, who signed the lyrics of the songs in the background.
Traditionally, when sign-language is used in these settings, it is American Sign Language (ASL). As Denny signed Babyface’s rendition of America the Beautiful, he used both ASL and North American Indian Sign Language.
Denny noted that his presence during the performances would not only help others like him feel represented and less alone, but bring awareness to the existence of North American Indian Sign Language. “A lot of people aren’t aware of the language and that it has always been here, even if we don’t see it. That’s something that I feel needs national recognition and revitalization for the community.”
Justina Miles also signed the lyrics of Rihanna’s half-time show, and was the first deaf woman to perform at a SuperBowl halftime show. Her lively performance has gone viral, as many people have raved about her on social media since.
NFL featuring women and Spanish-language
There was one ad that stood out heads above the others from an inclusion standpoint. The NFL’s “Run With It” ad featuring flag football star Diana Flores was a win for authentic inclusion for a number of reasons.
First up, and perhaps the most obvious, was it centered a woman in a historically male-dominated sport. Flores, a flag football quarterback, led her Mexico national women’s team to a gold medal in the sport at the 2022 World Games.
The spot also very naturally incorporated Spanish-language into it, during a brief section in which Diana is engaging with her mother, who is trying to take her flags.
The U.S. is home to the second-largest population of Spanish-speakers in the world, second only to Mexico. Reports show that 13 percent of the population speaks Spanish at home. Data shows that by the year 2050, one in three people in the U.S. will speak Spanish.
With the rise of the Spanish speakers in the U.S., more brands are working to engage those consumers by incorporating Spanish language into their promotions. At times, that has come off a bit cumbersome, especially when brands work to incorporate both English and Spanish language in the same campaign.
The NFL, however did it flawlessly. Part of the reasoning, is since Diana is Mexican, it made perfect sense as a part of her story-line to include Spanish. That’s a tip for brands working to incorporate Spanish-language into your promotions. Feature talent where with a depth of a back-story, as to allow infusion of cultural elements to feel authentic, rather than a marketing tactic.