Super Bowl ads support female participation in football
The GIST: Super Bowl Sunday wasn’t just about men’s sports. Two commercials supporting female participation in football aired during the big game, but each had a different pitch — an NFL-backed spot highlighted flag football, while the other promoted girls’ tackle football.
Flag football: Mexican quarterback (and new SMAC Entertainment client) Diana Flores starred in “Run With It,” featuring cameos from Billie Jean King, American flag player Vanita Krouch and high school football athlete Bella Rasmussen. The spot signaled that the sport and the women who play it are central to the NFL’s growth plans.
- It also represented a play for Latinos and women, two large but underserved fanbases — 31 million Latinos watch the NFL, and women comprise about half the league’s fanbase. The definition of untapped potential.
Tackle football: Brent Gordon, father of viral sensation Sam Gordon, paid an unspecified amount to boost the Utah Girls’ Tackle Football League by airing a local spot in Utah, one of a few U.S. states where girls can play tackle football. The league boasts 650 participants and counts Under Armour as a sponsor.
- The ad follows Gordon’s legal battle to kick off girls’ tackle football in Utah. He lost a 2017 lawsuit arguing that not providing the sport violates Title IX, but the case returned to the district court after an appeal.
The context: The NFL has eggs in both baskets — Flores came up through the league’s flag football development program, while the NFL Academy sponsors the Women’s Football Alliance pro tackle league — but has seemingly picked a side. Last year, the league went public with growth plans to make women’s and men’s flag football an Olympic sport.
- Flag football may be a sound bet for the NFL — there are now more flag players aged 6 to 12 (1 million) than tackle football players (678K) in the U.S. Flag participation has grown steadily in recent years, while tackle fell by 18% during 2020-21.
Zooming out: While everyone seems to agree that including female athletes is crucial to NFL growth, Sunday’s big game became a very public testing ground for a big question: How should the league build avenues for women players?