Years of research on the importance of the father-daughter relationship inspired the creation of perhaps the most adorable advertising campaign to appear during this Super Bowl season: giant NFL players attempting to style their little girls’ hair.
Pantene’s ad campaign “Strong is Beautiful” summarizes the message in its tag line: “Girls who spend quality time with their dads grow up to be strong women.”
That turns out to be a lot truer than most commercial hype.
“The father-daughter relationship is crucial for the development of strong daughters,” professor of adolescent and educational psychology Linda Nielsen, a nationally renowned expert of father-daughter relationships, says in the Wake Forest University newsletter.
Nielsen has taught a class called “Fathers and Daughters,” the only known college class in the country on this topic, for more than 20 years.
Nielsen asks: “Are you worried about teenage pregnancy? Are you worried about whether your daughter will get a good job someday and be able to support herself? Are you worried about your daughter picking boyfriends and husbands who are going to be emotionally and physically abusive to her? Are you worried about boys taking sexual advantage of her? All of these things, research shows, are connected more strongly to her relationship with her father than to her relationship to her mother.”
The creative team at Pantene, the world’s leading hair care brand, was inspired by Nielsen’s work, which includes five books and numerous scholarly articles on the dad-daughter relationship. Her research has been shared with multiple national news outlets, such as PBS, the Wall Street Journal and NPR.
But a Super Bowl ad? Now, that’s big time.
“Though it would be easy to focus on the daughters’ beauty, the campaign’s emphasis on strength is a huge compliment to my scholarship,” Nielsen says in the Wake Forest newsletter, calling the 30-second compilation ad and the four how-to videos both an “honor” and a “rush.” She notes that “academics dream about their research having an impact on public opinion.”
In his how-to spot, Benjamin Watson of the New Orleans Saints says, “If you’re a father and you only have so many hours in the day, maybe doing their hair is one of the things that you can do to connect with them and to build that relationship.”
So when you see Watson, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ DeAngelo Williams, or the Dallas Cowboys’ Jason Witten fumbling not a football but a band to wrap around a pigtail, or struggling with a ballerina bun, know that the time they took smoothing their tiny gals’ pigtails was an investment in their daughters’ confidence and character.