U.S. Olympic freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy holds a LGBT rainbow pride flag in a TV ad for Head & Shoulders shampoo, which might be a first for a major ad campaign featuring an athlete.
”My shoulders carry more than my country’s pride. They carry my community’s pride, my family’s pride and pride in myself. Because shoulders were made for greatness, not dandruff,” the openly gay Kenworthy says in the 30-second ad, which I saw first on ESPN. In two scenes, Kenworthy is holding a rainbow flag.
“Holding up those rainbow colors on national TV makes me feel PROUD!” Kenworthy said on Instagram in recognition of the moment.
“Gus is the embodiment of Shoulders of Greatness,” John Brownlee, Proctor &Gamble’s brand director for Head & Shoulders, told the Cincinnati Business Courier. “He has pushed through personal and social barriers to compete at the highest level – and at his personal best. … We know he will inspire others to shoulder their own greatness, no matter what obstacles they face.”
The significance of this ad should not be overlooked. Forever it seems, we have been told that coming out as openly gay would kill an athlete’s endorsement potential. We saw cracks in this argument when Michael Sam came out in 2014 prior to the NFL Draft and did a Visa commercial. Now the argument has zero merit when a major company like P&G openly uses LGBT pride imagery in an ad featuring an openly gay Olympian.
Coming out openly in 2015 was the best business decision Kenworthy made. He is racking up so many endorsements that I am losing track. United Airlines unveiled a new spot featuring Kenworthy this month.
I wonder is some sharp, young, talented LGBT athlete is looking at this and thinking they want to be the Gus Kenworthy of a future Olympics.