Collection: African American Athletes
As civil rights efforts took hold in the U.S., blacks gained a foothold in national sports leagues, most notably Jackie Robinson entered the MLB in the late 1940s. At the same time, as noted in our collection's "Targeting African Americans" theme, tobacco companies began targeting black markets primarily through print advertisements in African American publications. Many of these ads used testimonials from famous black athletes to hone in on the black demographic. Indeed, Chesterfield used Jackie Robinson himself in a 1950 ad. Athletes were particularly desirable endorsers for cigarettes because they implied healthfulness, a concern for cigarette companies as smoking became widely associated with lung cancer in the 1950s.
Richard Pollay and colleagues compared the prevalence of endorsements from athletes in Ebony (a magazine with primarily black readership) to that in Life (a magazine with primarily white readership) from 1950-1965. Pollay noted that during this time frame, Ebony contained 5 times more endorsements from athletes than Life (1). He also noted that cigarette advertisements in Ebony during these years used exclusively black models, while the ads in Life used exclusively white models, which Pollay cites as "evidence of fully segmented and segregated advertising programs."
1. Pollay, Richard W., Jug S. Lee and David Carter-Whitney. “Separate, but Not Equal: Racial Segmentation in Cigarette Advertising.” Journal of Advertising, Vol. 21, No. 1. March 1992: 45-57.