Multicultural marketing begins with internal transformation

An ongoing video dialogue between Josh Golden and marketing leaders from some of the country’s biggest, most successful brands.

Debbie King landed her dream job as the NFL’s vice president of marketing and brand strategy.

Her Michael Jordan fandom in the ‘90s set her down the path of working in sports and entertainment. “I loved the behind-the-scenes part of sports, the business.”

Debbie spent more than 11 years bringing the NFL brand to life. “I felt so blessed to say I work in my passion. And once I did that, then it became, ‘OK, I’ve done my dream job — now what do I want to do?”

Why authentic multicultural marketing is a necessity

A strong culture was at the core of the role Debbie wanted. She found it with what is now ViacomCBS. Today she’s instrumental in further strengthening the company’s quickly growing, changing culture.

“Six weeks after I started, we merged with another team. Then Viacom and CBS merged about a year and a half after that.”

In making her transition, Debbie learned that she wanted to help more people be seen and heard, especially young people. “That’s why I do this work. I don’t do it for me. If I can help other people find their voice and grow, that’s as satisfying as what I thought was my passion.”

Her work building a more multicultural external marketing story starts with the internal culture she fosters through DEI programs.

“I do wake up saying, ‘How am I going to make that these people feel like they’re a part of this world, that they’re included and being heard?’”

Driving cultural change from inside

Debbie notes that the demographic landscape in America is more diverse than ever and media companies need to reflect that in content. “You have to be ready to serve those diverse audiences and do it authentically. That means on the inside, your teams have to have that expertise. You have to be diverse. You have to understand other communities and have empathy.”

She cites prominent challenges that affect everyone in media today. “There have to be hard looks internally at our programming to say, we really need to have people who look like our audience behind the camera… Who’s writing, who’s directing — who’s making the decisions about what goes out over the air. All of those things go into transforming our business for the future. And the future is diverse.”

This transformation starts with internal education. “It’s baby steps. You don’t undo what people have been doing their entire lives through three training sessions. But every bit of progress matters.”

Living diversity’s ‘learning moment’

Debbie hopes her role extends well beyond ViacomCBS. “As a media company, we recognize that we help inform people’s perception of other groups,” she says. “I also think, this kind of work is transferable. I don’t need to do DEI work in my life, but I am taking that and impacting people to help them get to their full potential.”

Learn more about Debbie’s journey, and what she’s building in a leadership role that addresses some of the most universally relevant challenges in business — and in all our lives.