Posted on May 7, 2010

New Study: Super Bowl Ads Created by White Men

Sam Ali, Diversity, Inc., May 6, 2010


A new study released yesterday, looking at 2010 Super Bowl commercials that aired during the game between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts, found that not a single ad featured “a person of color” as the lead creative director. In fact, 100 percent of the creative directors responsible for the advertising spots that aired during the game were white. Furthermore, 94 percent of those white creative directors were men.

“The NFL is diversified, the Super Bowl is diversified, and the audience viewing the Super Bowl is diversified,” said Dr. Richard Lapchick, the director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, who authored the study. “However, the commercials that air during the game and the creative minds behind these commercials are not diversified.”

Lapchick conducted the study at the request of Madison Avenue Project, an initiative led by the NAACP and employment attorney Cyrus Mehri whose Washington, D.C.-based firm, Mehri & Skalet, has been investigating claims of race discrimination in the world of advertising. In 2009, Madison Avenue Project uncovered a decades-long pattern of racial discrimination in New York’s City’s major advertising agencies.

Lapchick said the content of the spots that aired during the game was also quite revealing. “This year’s crop of advertisements managed to depict some women in an antagonistic manner featuring a number of ads portraying men attempting to appease their overbearing girlfriends,” he said. “There was also an astonishing lack of minorities featured as main characters in the advertisements.”

Of the 67 ads that aired, only four featured a Black, Latino, Asian or American Indian person in the lead role, and all were men, the study found.


According to, an estimated 48.5 million women watched Super Bowl XLIV, which is more than 45 percent of the total viewership. In addition, 11.2 million Blacks tuned into Super Bowl XLIV, and 48 percent of them were Black women. Meanwhile, 8.3 million Latino viewers (44 percent of them women) saw the game.


Lapchick began analyzing the role of race and gender in sports back in the late 1980s and had been releasing an annual Racial and Gender Report Card for the past 20 years. Lapchick said the NFL “has worked very hard to break down racial and gender barriers.”


According to Lapchick, six of the last eight Super Bowl teams have had Black, Latino or Asian head coaches or general managers and “positional segregation, such as that for the quarterback, appears to have ended, as evident by the many minority starting quarterbacks in the league.” Lapchick said that 67 percent of the players in the NFL were Black and 31 percent were white. In the 2010 Super Bowl, approximately 63 percent of the players were Black, he said.

“The record of Madison Avenue agencies stands in stark contrast to that of the NFL,” according to the study. The lack of Black, Latino, Asian or American Indian employees who work in executive or creative positions for advertising agencies has been an unresolved issue in the advertising industry since it was first brought to light in 1963 by the NAACP and the Urban League of Greater New York.


Last year, Mehri, along with the NAACP, released a widely publicized report called the “Madison Avenue Project,” accusing ad agencies of “pervasive racial discrimination.” The report found that racial discrimination is 38 percent worse in the advertising market than in the overall U.S. labor market. In addition, the report said the “discrimination divide” in this industry is more than twice as bad now as it was 30 years ago. The report also found that Black college graduates working in advertising earned just 80 cents for every dollar earned by an equally qualified white employee.