Dismantling stereotypes means taking a stand for something real.
Off Court Champs is a campaign celebrating former NCAA standouts who became superstars outside of sports, defying stereotypes and expectations in a league of their own. One left Yale — when he was one of the top ten players in the Ivy League — to become a professor himself. One was an NCAA championship winner who became a multi-disciplinary entrepreneur. One left division 3 basketball to become a renowned quiltmaker.
The numbers show that Black college athletes are underserved by their sports programs, most glaringly in the gulf between the money colleges make from games and what students earn as athletes. There is a “graduation gap” between White and Black men’s college players of more than 14%. And only 1.2% of Black male college basketball players actually make it to the NBA.
Meanwhile, research by Dove shows that White people are more likely to see Black men as athletes over any other profession. Black men’s physicality has long been perceived in stereotypical ways that are harmful. This is just one piece of data that happens to prove it.
As a men’s personal care brand, Dove Men+Care is deeply involved in college athletics. So for March Madness, they decided to do something meaningful to change perceptions and challenge narratives.
I interviewed our Off Court Champs, going into deep detail about their journey from college sports to real-life success. The Edelman team and I then wove their words into a TV spot, social media and a series of limited-edition bespoke basketballs made by artist Kingsley Nebechi that highlighted the champs’ histories and achievements — taking a stereotypical symbol and transforming it into a portrait of inspiration.
Boys and Girls Clubs of America delivered these basketballs directly to students in ten different cities across the US, backed by a social campaign and earned media. We also partnered with the NCAA to launch Off Court Clinics, a series of virtual workshops in which our champs used their personal experiences to provide student-athletes with guidance on how to achieve their career aspirations.
The results? Dove Men+Care retained first place in awareness in the men’s overall personal care & grooming category, driving a lift in favorability, ad recall and “brand power” scores. All while driving home a message that urges the world to transform the way it sees and treats Black men, on and off the court.