So, now that we’re all OK with discussing gender equality and advertising, here’s one: why do creative bros get so much of the sports work?
Freelance copywriter Aimee Lehto Schewe (ex-BSSP, DDB) brought up the subject in a Medium post titled “If you let us write about sports” earlier this week.
We obviously cannot speak to the percentage of female creatives who are called to work on any given agency’s sports accounts. But here’s what Lehto Schewe wrote:
“…I’m wondering if we’re about to see a whole bunch of great, inspiring sports ads. The kind, like that Nike ad, that made me want to get into advertising. And I’m wondering how many will have been written by women.”
She went on to note that she has personally worked on sports accounts and that one of her lines is now, amusingly, attributed to one Muhammad Ali on ESPN.com. Here’s the big point, though:
“And while I was lucky to get to work on brands like Adidas and The WTA, and pitch ideas to the WNBA and ESPN, almost all of those assignments were for running or tennis, not major sports like the NBA, football, soccer, hockey or baseball. The truth is, it’s pretty rare for a woman to be put on a sports assignment that doesn’t have a W in front of it.
Which is a tiny bit understandable, but mostly total bullshit.”
The idea is that both clients and agencies tend to assign men to work on these accounts due to a presumption that they are both more informed on sports in general and better able to work within the related “culture.”
But does a copywriter REALLY need to be obsessed with sports to work on Nike?
“It’s about determination, and ambition, and underdogs, and grit. You know, the same characteristics that describe every woman in the creative department.”
Also, millions of American women do play and watch sports regularly. She also argued that, by (either actively or passively) preventing many female employees from working on these sports accounts, agencies are hurting their portfolios.
“Sports assignments are the fun assignments. They’re the best assignments in the building, and everybody knows it. They’re teed up for action and cinematic moments and inspiring stories, and the best directors want to work on them. So when you keep women off of sports assignments, you’re blocking them from the chance to do the best category of work there is.
It’s not that women don’t do great work. It’s that women are often kept off of the very projects that enable it.”
Our favorite part is the paraphrased argument that women wouldn’t want to work on these accounts anyway, because the clients are “pigs.” How many times did Peggy Olson hear that one?
A clarification: The author of this piece was not claiming that women never work on sports accounts. For example, this week’s W+K ad for ESPN included a female copywriter, and we found that after scrolling through one page of posts.
But maybe she did have a point.[Pic via Wikipedia, but really via Stephan Savoia of Associated Press.]