CarMax ads featuring basketball star Sue Bird go viral, call attention to gender bias in sports

Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm celebrates throughout the sport in opposition to the Las Vegas Aces in Game Three of the WNBA Finals on October 6, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida.

Ned Dishman | National Basketball Association | Getty Images

A collection of CarMax ads featuring WNBA famous person Sue Bird, which not too long ago went viral on social media, makes use of humor and misdirection to elevate feminine athletes who’ve confronted many years of underrepresentation in media. Bird’s accomplishments on the courtroom put her among the many finest gamers to ever play skilled basketball.

The ads — a part of CarMax’s “Call Your Shot” marketing campaign — have been launched earlier this month however took off on Twitter over the weekend. The spot gaining essentially the most attention starred Bird, NBA standout Steph Curry and an actor portraying a CarMax worker who was overjoyed to promote a car to an athlete of Bird’s caliber. It challenges gender bias in sports.

“I think it’s setting a new standard because it has resonated so positively with so many people,” mentioned Nancy Lough, a professor on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who research sports advertising and marketing and gender fairness. The industrial understands that “today’s consumer is smart,” she advised CNBC. “They want to be respected. Women want to be respected, but men appreciate that [there] needs to be respect across the board.” 

In the advert, the CarMax affiliate tells Curry, “Man, if you’d have told me this morning I’d be working with a four-time champ …” Before he can end, he is interrupted by the Golden State Warriors guard, who believes he is correcting the CarMax rep by saying he is solely received three league titles.

“No. I sold a car to Sue Bird,” the worker says in the advert, pointing throughout the lot because the digicam cuts to Bird, a longtime Seattle Storm guard, who’s seen waving and getting into the car.

“Eleven all-star appearances, can you imagine?” the salesperson asks. Curry, a 33-year-old seven-time NBA all-star, responds, “I mean, I’m working on it.” 

The industrial has resonated on social media; in one Twitter put up, the video has 1.7 million views.

“This is the best ad I’ve ever seen,” tweeted Sarah Fuller, the two-sport Vanderbilt University athlete who final yr grew to become the primary girl to rating factors in a Power 5 convention faculty soccer sport.

The viral second for the CarMax ads comes as Bird’s alma mater, the University of Connecticut, performs in the ladies’s NCAA basketball match’s Final Four on Friday. The girls’s video games this yr have loved sturdy viewership following the rise in reputation of the WNBA in its Covid-shortened season final yr. The WNBA’s 2021 season, its 25th, is predicted to start later this spring.

Graham Unterberger — a senior copywriter at the Martin Agency, which labored on the CarMax marketing campaign — mentioned he came upon that Bird was partnering with the auto retailer in the autumn, across the time the Storm received the WNBA title for the fourth time.

“When we saw her name, we were like, ‘This is freaking awesome. We have the best basketball player on the planet that we can write spots for,'” Unterberger mentioned in a video call with CNBC. “After writing spots, we saw the potential to pair [Curry and Bird] together.”

One motive the industrial starring Bird and Curry strikes a chord is that it locations a feminine athlete’s profession accolades firmly above these of a male athlete, Lough mentioned.

“Historically, traditionally and very commonplace today, a WNBA athlete being compared to an NBA athlete is always positioned as though the WNBA is lesser than, and, in this case, we actually get to see that flipped in a really fun and clever and novel new way,” she mentioned.

The advert can also be a testomony to the recognizable model that Bird has constructed throughout her practically twenty years in the WNBA, Lough added.

The No. 1 choose in the 2002 draft, Bird has spent her complete WNBA profession with the Storm, recording the most assists in league historical past. The 40-year-old Bird is returning for the upcoming 2021 season.

In the previous, firms that needed to use an athlete to assist construct their model have usually simply turned to male sports figures, Lough mentioned. However, there was a shift towards higher advertising and marketing illustration of feminine athletes, she added, pointing to tennis stars Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka as examples.

Bird’s collection with CarMax — which not too long ago grew to become the WNBA’s first-ever official auto retail accomplice — serves as the newest chapter of that welcome evolution, Lough mentioned. 

Another occasion got here earlier this month, when Los Angeles Sparks ahead Chiney Ogwumike, a two-time WNBA all-star and ESPN commentator, starred in a solo advert marketing campaign for food-delivery service DoorDash

How the ‘Call Your Shot’ ads took form

As the artistic course of for the Curry-Bird advert progressed, they merely “let the one with the most rings win out,” in accordance to Dustin Dodd, the Martin Agency’s senior artwork director.

“I don’t know how you look at Sue Bird’s resume and not say, ‘GOAT,'” Unterberger added, utilizing an acronym for best of all time. “It just is what it is.”

“To us, when you think about the WNBA’s rise in recent years, Sue Bird is a huge part of that history and a huge part of bringing that game forward,” he mentioned. “She’s won championships in different decades with the same team. She’s just an icon.”

Bird and Curry have been by no means on location collectively to movie the industrial, Dodd mentioned. Bird was in Connecticut, whereas Curry was in California. The video shoots additionally occurred weeks aside. “We just had to cobble it together the best way possible, and luckily it’s resonated with people,” he mentioned.

In one other one of many six ads in the collection starring Bird, she tells the actor representing a CarMax affiliate her center identify is “Buckets” — a basketball slang time period — after being requested for that bit of information to full a gross sales kind. Following seconds of awkward silence, she tells him, “Nah, it’s Brigit.”

Another facilities round CarMax delivering a bought car immediately to Bird’s dwelling. She relays the gate password to the worker over an intercom letter by letter, and viewers discover out the doorway code spells out “GOAT.”

Unterberger mentioned he is appreciated the dialog the ads featuring Bird have sparked round boosting illustration of feminine athletes, suggesting different firms ought to take notice. “It’s not just WNBA fans. It’s not just NBA fans. It’s blossomed into this bigger thing, and I think that alone should prove that this is a worthy endeavor,” he mentioned.

The commercials gained traction on-line as the ladies’s and males’s faculty basketball tournaments have been getting into their later rounds and disparities in lodging on the two NCAA tournaments — notably round weight room gear and various kinds of Covid exams — have been sharply criticized earlier this month.

Lough mentioned she thought each the widespread condemnation of the match inequities and the optimistic response to the CarMax ads with Bird have been important in their very own methods when it comes to advancing gender fairness in athletics.

“We’ve had waves of attention in women’s sports,” she added, recalling the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta when the U.S. girls’s soccer staff received the gold medal. “But right now, it’s different.”

“This is a wave of momentum that has been building for some time,” she mentioned, “and quite honestly, I don’t see it stopping, and that’s new.”

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