A GIST exclusive with Dawn Staley

March 1, 2023
As Staley exclusively told The GIST, this will raise “the level of our game [in] ways in which people aren't really thinking about.”
Sports BusinessGeneral

The GIST: Aflac has women’s March Madness fever. The insurance brand is debuting Dawn’s List, a collab with South Carolina women’s basketball head coach (HC) Dawn Staley to tackle inequities in the sport. As Staley exclusively told The GIST, this will raise “the level of our game [in] ways in which people aren't really thinking about.”

Dawn’s List: Staley identified three areas ripe for improvement in women’s basketball — resource equity, fan experience and community engagement. The first addresses inequitable pay and working conditions, while the latter two focus on unequal funding for the women’s basketball fanbase and the sport’s pipeline.

  • To help bridge the resource equity gap, Aflac will sponsor the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s (WBCA) Assistant Coaches of the Year Award to bolster the profiles of up-and-coming coaches. It will also support on-site fan activations for the Women’s Final Four in Dallas, notably pivoting away from the men’s edition.

The context: The company initially teamed up with Staley in December as part of a marketing campaign for both women’s and men’s March Madness. The HC will star in an ad with retired Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, and most of Aflac's 2023 NCAA basketball tournament media spend will go towards the women’s edition. Duck yeah.

The how: Shortly after shooting the spot, Staley said Aflac seized its chance to work with one of the sport’s biggest champions of equality: “They're very strategic with who they select and then in selecting me, I do think they do their research.” The parties settled on boosting the WBCA, while also working out a multi-pronged approach.

  • “We have to hit all aspects of our game,” Staley added, “because if you just pick one, and that's the concentration, you'll get a bump in that area, but at the expense of so many other other things that our game is lacking.”

The impact: The HC hopes Aflac’s deal inspires others to make “bold moves” during this major moment for women’s college hoops. “We’re in high demand,” Staley said. “People want to see our sport, not just South Carolina, they want to see everybody. … They would not put us on ABC or Fox if they didn't think there was a wide range of an audience.”

Zooming out: Two years after sexism rocked March Madness, the championship has become the sporting event for brands to advocate for equality. This is especially true for advertisers (as we noted in last month’s Sports Biz Breakfast), making Staley an ideal face for Aflac’s campaign. A big ducking deal.