Brands and Black History Month: A Weekly Look at Culture, Conversations and Content - 2.12.21 edition

February 12, 2021

During Black History Month, we’ll be recapping the brand and company news and trends we’re seeing when it comes to the culture, content and conversations around this important moment in time. At the end of each week in February, we’ll share a summary of what we’ve seen during the week — delivering actionable insights for your brand.

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The Week in Summary

The second week of Black History Month (BHM) 2021 continued much of the momentum from last week with companies and brands spotlighting Black creators and artists, as well as announcing philanthropic efforts to support the Black community, whether through sales of specific products or donations from their foundations. However, the setting for BHM coverage isn’t all positive.The 55th “Big Game” took a central role on the cultural stage at the outset of the week, but there was disappointment over the lack of inclusivity in the event’s ads, especially when it came to the director’s chair behind the scenes. And there was controversy over Tom Brady and Tyrann Mathieu’s on-the-field exchange that spurred (since dismissed) speculation about racism on the field.

A resurgence in the discussion around the way U.S. schools teach American history was front and center this week too. In Utah, the internet exploded in a backlash over a private school’s decision (since retracted) to make Black History Month education optional. And in Wisconsin, teachers were put on administrative leave after an unapproved lesson, triggering a traumatic lesson about slavery.

This goes to show there is much work that still needs to be done as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion. Brands and companies should be more aware than ever of the significant microscope they’re under, with more consumers proactively calling for accountability and progress when it comes to authentically centering and engaging the Black community, honoring the impact of Black history and culture and championing Black leadership, creativity and community, not only during this month, but all the time.

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Cultural Landscape

BHM Cultural Landscape - Forever 21 Models
(Photo Credit: Forever21)

Media coverage continues to focus on the celebratory and educational aspects of Black History Month (BHM), while also highlighting brand contributions and initiatives that honor the month and touch on broader diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

Other key coverage themes include:

Of all online news coverage related to Black History Month that went live in the last week, stories about a Utah school’s decision to make Black History Month optional was the most talked about news story on social media (550K+ social article reshares*). Facing an onslaught of media attention and social media backlash, the school ultimately reversed its decision.

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Corporate/Brand Actions

Feb 12 - BHM Corporate Brand Activations - SheaMoisture ad
(Photo Credit: SheaMoisture via Black Enterprise)

We continue to see an uptick in company announcements in honor of Black History Month, including several campaigns where proceeds from sales of certain products will go to organizations that support the Black and/or BIPOC community.

Noteworthy Black History Month Brand Campaigns on Social Media (in the last 7 Days)*:

  • The Atlanta Hawks saw strong engagement on their BHM x Prostate Cancer Foundation content, where they’re donating $250 for every assist made in February to the foundation as part of its “Black History Month Assist Challenge”
  • Guitar maker Fender continued to celebrate BHM by dedicating a full week’s worth of social content to the history of funk music and the Black artists who crafted the sound
  • Dessert lovers are flocking to legendary Magnolia Bakery for its banana pudding in February — all month long. Pudding profits will fund relief efforts for BIPOC-owned small businesses impacted by the pandemic.

Other companies used this as a moment in time to share corporate or product announcements:

  • SheaMoisture released #MyStoryMyPower series highlighting the stories of Black men in America, as well as a multi-year $1 million commitment toward an investment fund for Black men
  • Carter’s announced a new HBCU collection
  • PepsiCo will replace its Aunt Jemima brand with the Pearl Milling Company in June
  • Social media conversations are expected to trend in connection to Black History Month (according to Spike Newswhip analysis of the last 7 days)
  • Williams-Sonoma used the month to outline steps of its Equity in Action plan to increase Black representation

Here’s a short checklist when evaluating programs for your brand. As always, it’s crucial to ensure your company is living out what you’re saying publicly.

  • Have you invested in ongoing engagement and active listening with the Black community and key Black stakeholders or will this be your first time?
  • How does your proposed program center, benefit or give back to the Black community?How can you extend this programming or support year-round? Is this something that can live outside of BHM?
  • Are you paying Black content creators on par with their non-Black counterparts?
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Social Media Trends

BHM Social Media Trends - Drawing of Claudette Colvin
(Photo Credit:

Social media users are celebrating BHM by highlighting historical Black figures that we weren’t taught about in school. The trend represents a growing push to learn about Black history in a more holistic way.

For example:

  • Mary Kenner, a self-taught inventor who created the sanitary belt
  • Claudette Colvin, the first known Black woman who refused to give up her bus seat
  • Shirley Chisolm, the first Black woman elected to congress and the first Black person to run for U.S. President

Are there opportunities for your brand to curate and share meaningful stories around how Black history is being made today beyond the familiar?

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Influencers of Note

BHM Influencers of Note - Collab Cribs Participant Photo
(Photo Credit: ABC News)

Consider ways your brand can make diversity engrained in your influencer campaigns. Be intentional in seeking authentic collaborations with influencers in the Black community and finding ways to creatively elevate their work year-round, not just during this recognition month. Below are two influencer collaboration examples of interest:

  • Depop x Black in Fashion Council: did you know that less than 4% of fashion designers are Black? Depop is partnering with the Black in Fashion Council to educate, empower and celebrate Black entrepreneurs. Their goal is help young Black entrepreneurs and designers grow their business and increase visibility of Black-owned shops.
  • Collab and Valid Crib: While it goes without saying, a lot of content creator houses are not as diverse, but a group of 35 Black creators are taking power into their own hands and building an empire in Atlanta. They started the Collab and Valid Cribs where social media stars, actors, comedians and musicians come together to create viral content. The “Buss it Challenge” being done by your favorite celebrities? Yeah, they did that.
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Analyzing the Conversation

Black History Month: Coverage Sentiment (Online News and Twitter)

To date, Black History Month coverage has been overwhelmingly positive or neutral, with most coverage and conversations centered around celebration and positive actions to commemorate the month. Negative conversation, especially recently, centers around how Black history is taught in schools in America.

BHM Coverage Sentiment Chart: 65% Neutral, 29.9% Positive, 5% Negative

Source: Talkwalker, analysis of high engaging Twitter mentions and high reaching online publications in the U.S. between Feb. 1- Feb. 11, 2021

Black History Month: Coverage Topic Breakdown (Online News and Twitter)

Throughout the month, just over 45% of BHM coverage and conversations have focused on donating to organizations that support the Black Community. Whether individuals on Twitter or companies announcing philanthropic initiatives, giving back to this community is top-of-mind. Promoting Black creators and designers is also a large topic of conversation, though is there is a thoughtful undertone in many conversations reminding companies to not only support this community one month a year, also but year-round.

BHM Coverage Topics - Donations: 45.1%, Creators/Designers: 26.9%, Promotional: 20.4%, Economic Inequality: 7.5%

Source: Talkwalker, analysis of 1,600 high engaging Twitter mentions and high reaching online publications in the U.S. mentioning category key words between Feb. 1- Feb. 11, 2021

Want to receive a weekly round-up of Black History Month culture, content and conversations throughout February? Please fill out our contact form below and specify “Black History Month” in Comments.

See our previous content from February 5.

Looking for guidance on how your company or brand should intersect with Black History Month? Contact your client director or get in touch with a Ketchum communications consultant.