Women in the Olympics: Nike's ad supporting Indian athletes
Women in the Olympics: Nike's ad supporting Indian athletes
A view from Isobel Sita-Lumsden

Isn't it about time more brands got behind our future female athletes?

While it continues to dominate our world, how many of you are aware of the fact that women are outperforming men in golf?

For example, in 2006 Lorena Ochoa beat Tiger Woods’ GIR percentage. In the UK, the women’s football team are fourth in the FIFA ranking, compared to the men coming thirteenth.

And if you followed the Olympics in 2012, you might know that US women took home 29 gold medals compared to the men’s 17 and that Nicola Adams MBE was the first woman to win an Olympic boxing title.

That’s because the Olympics puts men and women on an equal footing.

Current Olympic and world heptathlon champion, Jessica Ennis-Hill and former Olympic, World and Commonwealth Champion, Christine Ohuruogu, are just some of the women who will represent our country in this year’s games. They will inspire the next generation of girls to be ambitious, work hard and demand an equal standing amongst their male counterparts.

It’s important to recognise that women have come a long way in the sporting world.

When women first took part in the Olympic Games in Paris in 1900, just 22 women out of a total of 997 athletes competed in the games according to the IOC.

This has risen to an astounding 4,700 in the Games of the Olympiad, which is 45% of the total number of participants.

Yet, despite this, overall women’s sport sponsorship accounted for only 0.4% of total sports sponsorship between 2011 and 2013. And we continue to see coverage of women's sports as low as 7% of all sports media coverage in the UK, according to Women In Sport.

A disappointing response

As a marketeer with over 15 years experience working in the industry, it’s hard not to feel disappointed by the industry when it comes to giving these female role models the support they deserve.

The majority of sports brands opt to partner with male athletes - just take a look at Forbes’ World’s Highest Paid Athletes List and you’ll see Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are the only two females to feature on a list of 100.

But despite the disparity between female participation and presence in media and advertising, there are also a number of brands that have made it their business to raise this statistic.

For example in February, Adidas launched their global I’m Here To Create campaign, featuring a number of female athletes including world champion tennis player, Caroline Wozniacki.

The spot demonstrates the many creative and diverse ways she trains off the tennis court from boxing, football and swimming, to beach wind sprints. She’s not held back by stereotypes when it comes to the ways she trains, which is inspiring for the younger generation.      

And overseas, Nike recently landed a powerful advert called Da Da Ding, featuring India’s most successful female athletes ahead of the Olympic games.

The campaign addresses what Mohamed Rizwan, creative director at Wieden + Kennedy India calls a ‘massive image problem, particularly for women" in the region. High energy and bursting with colour, the video empowers women to get involved in all sports and not be held back by social norms or stereotypes.  

P&G took another approach by targeting mothers in the run up to the Olympics and teaming up with Jessica Ennis-Hill for Thank You, Mom - Strong.

The video takes a moment to recognise the strength of those parental role models that raise the female athletes of today, providing stability, support and encouragement from an early age.

P&G are also the pioneers behind the Always #LikeAGirl campaign that took the world by storm back in 2014, highlighting how expectations of women are set from an early age and helping address their need for self confidence from the get go. 

They recently encouraged girls to Keep Playing, continuing to drive momentum with their latest spot.

And let’s not forget Sport England’s heavily influential This Girl Can campaign, that celebrated the imperfect nature of exercise and encouraged women to get stuck in.

These brands represent women as strong, competitive individuals and demonstrate how men and women are are alike when it comes to pushing their own boundaries and competing to be the best. This is an essential way of tackling the issue.

Advertising has the power to inspire the next generation to be inclusive. We should always think how can we delight, surprise and inspire through our brands and campaigns which will help increase audience's appetites for female sport and ultimately persuade brands to partner or endorse female athletes.

AOL launched its women's leadership platform, MAKERS in the UK this year. The goal of MAKERS is to inspire young girls to create the future leaders of tomorrow. 

This August, British Olympian Christine Ohuruogu will sit down with MAKERS to talk  about her life and how she got to where she is today. Here’s a teaser clip:

Christine is one of the keys to helping us redress the balance across media and advertising but unlocking budgets to mirror spend across male and female sport is down to you.

Topics