Friday, July 21, 2017

Will The Real Athletes Please Stand Up?

Written by Rachel Wong.

Bella Hadid's picture from Nike 
Just last month, Nike announced that fashion model Bella Hadid would be the face of its previously popular Cortez sneaker, designed in 1972 for runners. If you're an older runner you will remember the Cortez, after all even Forrest Gump used it for his runs.

Picture from Sneaker news
The Cortez is being re-released as a fashion/ lifestyle sneaker. This follows a series fashion models being chosen to front the campaigns of other sportswear brands - Kylie Jenner (Puma), Karlie Kloss (Adidas) and Gisele Bundchen (Under Armour) just to name a few.

Naturally, some professional athletes have picked up on this and commented against this trend.

As a female football player myself, I think it is completely fair that people are upset that the big sporting companies are choosing to hire fashion models (instead of female athletes) to front the advertising campaigns.

It highlights the differences the way marketing is done in female sports. Emphasis is often placed on how good the women look rather than how well they perform, and women's sports are viewed as less prestigious.

Female athletes definitely do not get the same recognition and endorsement opportunities compared to their male counterparts. Not featuring female athletes in major advertising campaigns also perpetuates this problem as the wider population miss out on seeing more female athletes.

After all, most if not all sports brands instantly opt for professional male athletes in their advertising campaigns. Nike previously used Michael Jordan and now Lebron James for its basketball ads while Puma uses Usain Bolt. Why not the same for females?

However, it is not surprising that Nike (and other sporting brands) choose to use these fashion models with their massive social media presence guaranteeing a broader reach. The target audience is also different today - more people are wearing their sneakers as part of a fashion statement and not for exercise. I suppose from a business/ profit making point of view, this is justified.

Occasionally, these companies do get it right. Misty Copeland (ABT ballet dance), Simone Biles (Olympic gymnast), Ronda Rousey (UFC fighter), Annie Thorisdottir (crossfit) and even the USA women's soccer team have broken into the male-dominated world of sports endorsement deals.

Hopefully these big sporting brand names start to understand the value of real-life athletes to their consumers. I feel that the authentic stories of female athletes, rising above the pressures of their circumstances and beating the odds, are so much more powerful than looking good in whatever apparel they are marketing.

Seeing this will definitely attract my attention, and I might end up buying more clothes and shoes I don't need? :) Nike are you listening?

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