For too long, Black men have been associated with basketball—and nothing more. Dove wants to change that.
Dove Men+ Care is rolling out a new ad, “Let’s celebrate Black men off the court.” that does exactly that. The ads, which are running on Dove’s social channels and on TV throughout March Madness, spotlight former NCAA basketball players who have progressed into thriving careers as varied as painting, academia, law, and quilting. The goal of the campaign is to challenge not only the way white people see Black men, but the way Black men see themselves. Dove’s parent company, Unilever, says the “Off-Court Champs” will also be featured in a series of virtual career advice workshops with current NCAA student-athletes.
Last month, Unilever released the results of “Bias Against Black Men – Understanding Perceptions and How They Impact Black Men & Boys,” which was based on 3,000 people. The study found that white men are 150% more likely to see Black men as criminals and two times as likely to say they are threatening and intimidating. It also demonstrated a decline in Black men’s self-perception between high school and college, making them less likely to describe themselves as smart, outspoken or leaders. Finally, 37% of white men used one or more negative words to describe Black men, including “aggressive”, “threatening”, “dangerous” or “apathetic”.
Dove has been a consistent winner for Unilever, as observed in Gartner’s Digital IQ Index: Personal Care, and touts a series of barrier-breaking campaigns under its belt. Unfortunately, it suffered a misstep in its “Real Beauty” campaign that was, ironically, based on racism accusations. As such, it’s not surprising that the comments beneath the new campaign are mixed and even question the brand’s research resources. As consumers continue to look for trustworthy brands with a sense of social responsibility, broaching social topics with the utmost care and consideration is extremely important for marketers looking to either make way or perhaps in Dove’s case, make amends, with its audience.