It was January 2015 when Sport England launched its famous “This Girl Can” campaign with an inspirational TV ad.
The unmistakable sound of Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On” thumping through the telly got me going, coupled with the two-three second clips of ordinary women swimming, running, kicking and dancing.
It was the first time I had been motivated to exercise without feeling like a failure before I had started.
Why? Because the women in the ad were not super-toned, shiny-haired goddesses dressed top to toe in Sweaty Betty gym gear.
They were hot, sweaty women of all ages, sizes, ethnicities and abilities, dressed in bikinis, baggy t-shirts, tabards and floral leggings. They looked like me, my friends, my mom, my nan (the list goes on).
Since the campaign’s launch four years ago, “This Girl Can” has inspired almost three million UK women to take up physical activity, according to Sport England.
The latest advert to catch my attention is Nike’s “Dream Crazier” campaign. Featuring sport sensation and ultimate bad-ass Serena Williams, it focuses on the fight faced by female athletes to be taken seriously in sport.
The advert begins with a host of female athletes crying and looking distressed, with Williams’ voice-over saying: “If we show emotion, we’re called dramatic.”
It goes on to show situations in sport where female athletes have been described as “unhinged, nuts, delusional and crazy”. Now I am no athlete: yoga classes and one half-marathon is about my lot. But this advert speaks to me because it’s not just sport where women are not taken seriously.
Words such as “dramatic, unhinged, delusional and crazy” are used in the workplace, at home, at university, in Parliament and around the dinner table to belittle women and their experiences. These same words are often used in situations where male counterparts are praised for being “passionate, visionary, aspirational or determined”.
It is indicative of the double standard used to interpret male and female displays of emotion. It’s the same double standard that has led to the toxic masculinity debate broached by Gillette’s “The Best Men Can Be” advert (coincidentally directed by Kim Gehrig, the director behind the Nike ad).
So, next time we see someone striving to achieve their goals, either on the sports pitch or in the boardroom, we should remember to judge everyone by the same standards. We can all be passionate, visionary, aspirational, determined and now, thanks to Nike, crazy.
PR and marketing professionals should also look for opportunities to challenge negative stereotypes, rather than reinforce them – even if this means having a tough conversation with a client.