The sense of lagging commitment extends beyond Super Bowl. For example, many Black creators—and their reps—said they were contacted about fewer brand partnerships for Black History Month this year than in the past two years.
“No brands called us. It seemed like they were just not interested this year. That doesn’t help, either,” said Little Minx’s Scott.
“It took something as big as George Floyd to make everybody wake up for two minutes,” added Hollien. “But I have to tell you, as a Black person—along with all my Black friends in the business—we knew it would go back to the status quo. We’re not surprised. We expected it.”
The problem, many say, is that there was a lot of talk after Floyd’s death, but not enough concrete action to change the way the business actually runs deep down.
“There was a feeling that grasped the industry—what can we do? A sense of hopelessness drove a real desire for action,” said Prettybird’s Brown. “But because there wasn’t real investment put into it, there was never the kind of lasting change that was needed. It became about performative actions versus the financial and creative investment needed to have continued momentum and impact.”
How to change the equation
Reigniting the commitment—and spurring real investment—remains the challenge that lies ahead.
In terms of director diversity specifically, a few strategies could pay off down the line—getting diverse directors into smaller projects with big brands first, so they build those relationships; working with industry publications to highlight diverse directors who are ready for major jobs; and coming up with a better way to track the data around who is actually being hired for directing work, not just who was bid for it.
“The lack of representation in the Super Bowl directing pool shows we’ve all let our commitments slip—it should be a wake-up call for all of us to recommit to pushing for change,” said Nicole Haase, director of production at 72andSunny L.A. (which hired Lucas, a Black director, for one of its two NFL Super Bowl ads—and Buckley, a white director with a long Super Bowl résumé, for the other).
In terms of action, Haase said, “it’s on us—both agencies and our clients—to be more bold in selecting directors with immense talent, but who simply have not been given the same opportunities on similarly large stages. The only way to continue to drive change is to get buy-in from your entire organization and then put process in place, so everyone knows how to action it. We've operationalized our DEI production approach and that has helped to bring more representation into the work. Tracking the data is part of holding yourself accountable, too. At 72andSunny, we've made progress but we are still very far from where we want to be.”