Gillette Promotes Unity On and Off the Pitch

Made Of What Matters



This week’s Ad Of The Week is an unusual one – it stars British footballer Raheem Sterling, who plays for Manchester City. It launched around the world in February but wasn’t shown in the US, as British soccer is a far more niche interest there and few would know who Sterling is.

But this week the ad has aired in the US, and done well enough to get our Ad Of The Week spot. Why this ad, and why now? The Premier League is returning to the UK, so you’d expect more football ads on British TV. But there’s a broader reason for the ad airing in the US: Black Lives Matter.

While brands rushed to make new adverts around the Covid-19 pandemic, they’ve been a lot more cautious about putting out communications around the Black Lives Matter movement, whose protests against police violence have dominated the news around the world in the last two weeks. Why the relative silence, especially as polls show support for the movement has surged since it emerged in the mid-10s?

By putting a spotlight on racism, Black Lives Matter also puts a spotlight on brands, and it’s a time when actions surely speak louder than adverts. Marketers have unhappy memories of the outcry and mockery that followed Pepsi’s notorious Kendall Jenner ad in 2017, which borrowed the aesthetics of protest with no commitment to any underlying cause. And a glossy ad might create uncomfortable backlash for companies whose boardroom is a great deal less diverse than their buyers.

These are questions which face any marketer dabbling in “Brand Purpose”. At the same time, there are a lot of brands which genuinely have been walking the walk and making financial commitments to anti-racist causes. Gillette owner P&G won a lot of praise for ads like “The Talk” which addressed racism frankly, and the razor brand has been trying – not always successfully – to create a space for itself to embrace progressive causes.

In the UK, the Raheem Sterling ad was tied to a campaign helping kids who’d become disengaged from education. The ad is a moody but uplifting statement against prejudice that looks to celebrate Sterling’s achievements and role model status, as well as a reminder that Gillette and P&G have been thinking about these issues globally and for a long time. And because it’s an existing campaign, it feels far more authentic than a bandwagon-jumping BLM commercial would be.

How do the viewing public feel? The ad scored strongly with a 3.7-Star Rating – not among the absolute top performers but a very good result for a purpose-driven ad. It also performed well on Spike and Brand Fluency, which many campaigning ads fail on. Whether the alignment with Black Lives Matter is intentional or not, it’s a great example of how a brand can repurpose content to match a given moment without needing to explicitly address it.

One final thing – the ad actually did better in the US than with its original UK audience, where it landed a lower 3.3-Star score. That probably reflects on how much more resonant the ad’s themes seem right now – though it might just mean that a lot of British people don’t much like Man City…