flobron

LeBron as FloBron

Progressive

If you haven’t seen a Progressive commercial with Flo, you’re either living under a rock or maybe you just don’t have a television in your home. But Progressive’s spokeswoman has developed a cult following and is considered to be the insurance company’s best marketing asset.

What happens when you match Flo with one of the NBA’s most valuable players, who just made his return to his hometown of Cleveland? Well, you get LeBron James in a yaky wig from the beauty supply and #FloBron enters the scene.

It’s game time. #FloBron #switch

A photo posted by @progressive on

On Halloween, James dressed up as Flo for a new digital campaign called “the Switch.” This isn’t just a one-time stunt; Progressive has posted a slew of tweets and Instagram videos of James matching wits and basketball skills with Flo.

“We've paired the King of Sports, LeBron James, with the Queen of Marketing, Flo, for a unique, digital-first execution we’re calling ‘The Switch,’” chief marketing officer Jeff Charney said in a statement. “In the coming months, look for more digital bread crumbs that show a different side of each of these icons. The Switch is just getting started. ... There’s much more to come on Instagram and other channels. Stay tuned.”

So amazing to watch a master get into the zone. #FloBron #switch

A photo posted by @progressive on

So far, the campaign has been successful in garnering laughs and social media attention:

Glitter's like chalk, if chalk were fabulous. #FloBron #switch

A video posted by @progressive on

But not everyone is laughing.

One quick look at the Instagram comments on Progressive’s page shows that some people feel the ad campaign is derogatory to black men. Instagram user generalsdaughter wrote:

There were absolutely NO OTHER CONCEPTS that could have been shot for this ad? It just HAD to come down to a black male athlete in drag?  #agenda #emasculation #itsinthecontract

Another Instagram user expressed similar sentiments:

Pls stop posting ads like these and designing these types of ads promoting black men being feminine. Honestly, men altogether. I mean wtf you’ll have plenty of budget to think of something more creative than having this great grown black male athlete dressed wearing that bum ass wig looking all gay or like a woman & @brittney.montana wake up shorty, plenty other costumes than this homo antic right here. #DeathToThisF--kery #BeMoreCreative #StopSchemingOnTheMinds #Ridiculous

But there are those who feel the ad spots are just lighthearted and fun:

@generalsdaughter okay so a black man wore a wig & apron like Flo for a Halloween ad for Progressive Insurance. Is your fear that young men will think it’s okay to dress like Flo for Halloween? If that upsets you, I’ll let you be upset but I sure hope you’re this passionate about things that actually negatively impact.

The thing is, throwing a dress on an NBA player isn’t anything new. I can’t be the only one who remembers this:

Larry Johnson was “Grandmama” for quite some time back in the day when he was the face of Converse. The only difference back then was that we didn’t have social media that could expose any possible complaints people had about the ads. Maybe Progressive is a bit lazy in reviving the whole black-man-in-a-wig routine, but you can’t forget that James is a willing and paid participant. 

From the comments on Progressive’s page, you have to ask, when was the last time you saw a white NBA player don a wig for a company?

For more of black Twitter, check out The Chatterati on The Root and follow The Chatterati on Twitter.

Yesha Callahan is editor of The Grapevine and a staff writer at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.

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