AAF Hosts Panels on Diversity & Inclusion in Professional Sports and Television

Exploring the Role of Advertising in Sports & Television Multiculturalism


LAS VEGAS, Nv., Jun. 9, 2015—Executives from ABC Studios, BET Networks, ESPN, Gatorade, Major League Baseball (MLB), Razorfish, Starcom MediaVest Group, the US Tennis Association (USTA) and Women in Sports & Events (WISE) will tackle the associated challenges of an increase in diversity in professional sports and television in two separate panels during the American Advertising Federation’s (AAF) national conference,ADMERICA, taking place at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, NV June 10-13.

The sports panel, Portrayal of the Pros: Achieving Inclusion in Sports, will explore how professional sporting organizations and the advertising/marketing industry must work collaboratively to address the escalating issues of multicultural inclusion on the field, in the front office and in the fan-base during ADMERICA’s opening session on Thursday, June 11. 

This panel will address how the advertising industry can communicate to consumers on behalf of sporting organizations to combat negative stereotypes or perceptions portrayed by the media reporting on the behavior of the players, coaches and administration.

“Major League Baseball has been at the forefront of diversity and inclusion since the days of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey,” says Wendy Lewis, SVP of Diversity & Strategic Alliances for MLB. “Sports have always been a catalyst for change in society. That tradition continues and is supported by MLB’s advancement of diversity and inclusion initiatives that promote social responsibility and competitive advantage throughout our industry.”

Panelists include D.A. Abrams, Chief Diversity Officer, USTA; Kate Fagan, Feature Writer & Columnist, ESPN; Kathleen Francis, Chair & President, WISE; Wendy Lewis, SVP of Diversity & Strategic Alliances, MLB; and Kenny Mitchell, Senior Director of Consumer Engagement, Gatorade.

The increase in multicultural television programming and the advertising industry’s role and response will be addressed in the panel, Color Content & Cash, by Esther Franklin, EVP, Head of SMG America’s Experience Strategy, Starcom MediaVest Group; Patrick Moran, EVP, ABC Studios; Michele Thornton, SVP, Centric TV; Kendra Hatcher King, Group Director of Account Planning, Razorfish; and Jennifer Jones, President, National Pan-Hellenic Council, the organization whose activism led to the removal of the “Sorority Sisters” reality TV program last Fall.

The panel will tackle the specific issues of understanding programming selection and the advertising investment process, who the decision makers and influencers are and identify best practices for achieving a broader spectrum of diverse images on television.

“Advertisers and agencies are conducting nuanced research with culturally grounded audiences, particularly Latinos and African Americans because they are the fastest growing markets and we know that those communities desire more content that accurately depicts the breadth of their experiences,” says Franklin. “Advertisers want to connect with these communities in a bigger, more meaningful way, and they haven’t had such programming to invest proportionately that they would like."

This programming is supported by AAF’s Mosaic Center, which is dedicated to engaging and exploring society’s perceptions of various ethnic groups in the media and the industry’s role in presenting a broader spectrum of realistic images of people of color. 

To learn more about the Mosaic Keynote Panel or ADMERICA, visit