Adidas wants us all in – unless you’re a girl.

Adidas has a new marketing campaign called ‘All in’.  ‘Adidas is all in’ is the tag line, and apparently so are (Lionel) Messi, (Derrick) Rose, B.o.B, (David) Beckham and Katy Perry (http://tinyurl.com/4p2xem9). But the trouble is that while everyone is allowed to play, Adidas make it look like only the boys get to play sports and the girls just get to look pretty and dance. The advert is a series of shots of people doing cool stuff – mainly sports (since it is a sportswear company), set to cool music, presumably to make us all want to buy Adidas gear so that we can all play as well and look as cool as everyone in the video. When I first saw this advert on TV I was shocked by the under-representation of women and thought that perhaps I was missing something. So I looked it up online and tried to count the number of girls and make a note of what they did. In the 1:03 long video, this is what I found:

0:17 – The first woman appears on screen. It’s a model walking down a catwalk.
0:18 – The model is immediately followed by a cheerleader, cheering.
0:23 – The next woman appears. It is Katy Perry dancing in a mirrored rehearsal room.
0:25 – A woman is in a dark room (club?) dancing provocatively with a large circle of men behind watching.
0:54 – Thank the stars finally there is a female sportsperson! There is a one second clip of a runner who appears to be celebrating. (or screaming in anger at losing. But I guess it’s supposed to be motivational so lets stick with celebrating)

That’s it. That’s all the representations of women that you get. All the varied and exciting sports that women take part in, all the successful, charismatic, interesting, high profile female sportspeople in the world and you show us 2 dancers, a model and one runner? Really, Adidas? Really??

Now perhaps you think I am over-reacting. Perhaps you think this is not taking the context of the advert as a whole into account. For those of you who haven’t seen the video in question, let me outline some of the activities that men are shown participating in. Running, Boxing, American Football, Football (Soccer), Skateboarding, BMX/Stunt biking, Basketball, and bizarrely some guy shooting a flare into the night sky. Yes there is one male singer/rapper shown (B.o.B), but he is shown onstage performing and he also gets to drive about in a car and shoot a flare! Katy Perry only gets to wiggle her hips then jump into some guys arms. But seriously, it is not that there are girls dancing etc that bothers me, its that they don’t do anything else! The men on screen get to run about, play all sorts of sports that look terribly fun and even fall down and have a laugh whilst doing so. Why are the women stuck on the sidelines looking pretty and cheering on the men?

So what’s the harm in all this? It’s just an advert for a sportswear company. Well there is no harm, unless of course you want girls to grow up thinking that they can be sporty, can be active and can be something more than a bloody cheerleader! For good or for bad, we are all influenced by the society that we are in, and moreover by the society we grow up in. If the media and all your fave sports heroes are subtly telling you and all your friends that boys do one thing and girls do another, it’s no surprise that kids grow up thinking that they have an inherent set of options and likes to adhere to. Its subliminal and its subversive and its not even representative of our culture today. Sure women’s sports generally don’t get nearly the money, attention or cred that they deserve, but this advertising campaign makes them look like they don’t even exist! Its bad enough to reinforce existing gender stereotypes, but please Adidas, don’t try and make them worse.

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Authors note: Thanks to Jen Shewmaker (@drjenshewmaker) for the recent pointer to this amazing advert (below) made by another sportswear company (Underarmour) that GETS IT RIGHT! You can read her blog which looks at women as agents vs objects and compares the Adidas and Underarmour ads, here: http://dontconformtransform.wordpress.com/ Highly recommended!

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Gender inequality has gone on long enough. Its time to raise voices and shout out wherever inequality, sexism or violence against women occurs. This is our little corner of the world where we try and do just that. Will you join us? Join us on facebook at: http://tinyurl.com/feminist-letters Or follow us on twitter @feministletters We welcome comments and discussions from everyone. If you would like to contribute a post please email us at feministletters@gmail.com
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9 Responses to Adidas wants us all in – unless you’re a girl.

  1. Joanne says:

    I too recently saw this advert on UK telly and was instantly struck by the same thought – men play sport, women are like Katy Perry looking sexily into the camera. Boring, Adidas!

    Media DOES matter, people do take in these messages…this one wasn’t even that subtle! Just think what an advert full of female athletes might look like – that might make consumers really take notice.

  2. Thanks for your comment Joanne!
    I would also be curious to see how people reacted if the reverse advert was made, ie with women doing the rough and tumble stuff and men pouting on the sidelines!

  3. It would be great if people could give some feedback to Adidas about this. Feel free to link to or reproduce any part of this blog when contacting them, but please do contact them and tell them how you feel! Their customer contact form can be found here:
    http://tinyurl.com/3d8vk98

  4. jenny says:

    is this something worth complaining about

  5. Hi Jenny,
    I think it is something worth complaining about or I wouldnt have spent my time writing this post. The portrayal of women in media impacts on our lives and filters into the collective subconscious. Reinforcing the image of women as decorative objects and not participants ultimately limits girls and women and produces a societal expectation of their behaviour. I agree that there are a million other things to get angry about and believe me, I participate in many other campaigns to fight for womens rights. However this does not preclude me from commenting when I find blatant sexism in the media and trying to do something about it.

    If you are interested in reading more about how the portrayal of women in this way affects women and girls, I highly recommend that you read Jenny Shewmaker’s blog at http://dontconformtransform.wordpress.com/

    Thanks for commenting. I am always interested in hearing other points of view.
    ~Cat @feministletters

  6. Here is the letter we sent to Adidas. Feel free to cut, paste and send your own!!

    To whom it may concern,

    We are writing to express our concern regarding your recent UK television advertising for the “All in” campaign. We are very disturbed by the poor representation of women in the piece. Women are not only under-represented in the “All in” commercial, but are depicted as only being on the sidelines of sports, rather than actual participants. In the campaign spot that has been airing on UK television, there are only approx. four women that are given any amount of screen time. This includes one model, one singer, a woman dancing and one runner. In the ~1 minute commercial there are numerous shots of numerous men playing actual sports including football, soccer, skateboarding, basketball, BMX and boxing to name a few. Yet there is only one shot that lasts for about one second of a woman in sport (the runner). All other women in the advert are dancing or ‘looking pretty’.

    This kind of gender discrimination is extremely detrimental as what you are portraying is that for boys it is cool and great to be sporty, but not for girls. Boys have all these great role models to aspire to, and what do girls get? Katy Perry and a model. Not exactly inspiring. This commercial is subliminally telling girls that sport is not for them, it is something that they cheer for, but don’t participate in.

    There are so many amazing sportswomen in the world, it seems ridiculous that you were not able to find a suitable woman to be on par with the men in your campaign. Particularly when another sportswear company recently produced such a good example of female athletes in advertising: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wkt0Q6p33fo

    Furthermore, although Katy Perry is popular and well known, her relevance to a sportswear company is a little unclear. But we would like to stress that it is not the presence of a singer like Perry, or the cheerleaders etc in this commercial that is the problem. It is that there are (with the exception of that one second shot of the runner) no other representations of women as active, strong, sportspeople. The men in the advert are shown running, playing, competing and having a laugh even when taking a fall. But the females in the advert seem wrapped in cotton wool and makeup. They are there for the benefit of others, they cheer, they dance, they look pretty. Why don’t you show women doing sport? Why not show women competing, women excelling, women taking a tumble themselves sometime? We are not any more breakable than men, we promise. We are not just display items that make the world prettier and cheer on the men-folk.

    What we are asking you is to re-think the portrayal of women in this campaign. Show girls that women can be strong and sporty and someone to look up to. Show the world that you don’t think the sum total of a woman is how much people want to look at her. We understand that advertising needs to be geared to your market to be successful and that men’s sports generally make more money than women’s. But your campaign makes it look like women don’t do sport at all! The advert does not represent women in culture today or tomorrow, it represents backwards stereotypes that would not look out of place in the 1950’s.

    The “All in” campaign has been reported to be your biggest campaign ever, please don’t let it be your most sexist campaign ever, too.

  7. Pingback: Help us tell Adidas to stop ignoring women athletes | Feminist Letters

  8. FidgetyMidget says:

    Although I empathise with the comments above, this commercial is just one part of a whole campaign and if I’m not mistaken there will be a part of the campaign specifically for women appearing in the next few weeks. I am also wondering if the viewers chose to ignore tennis player Caroline Wozniacki and the Olympic pole vaulter? although I agree that there could have been a stronger female sporting presence, adidas is no longer just about sport and is also about street and style with several female representatives featuring in the commercial. please don’t write off adidas just yet.

  9. Thanks for your comment. The commercial that airs on UK television does not contain any other female athletes than those mentioned in the blog post. Believe me, I have watched it MANY times. I know that Wozniacki is on the website, but I did not see her in the commercial. (However if you can point her out, I will amend of course) Its fair enough to say that adidas is about more than sport, but it is very striking the different way that men and women are shown in this advert. Men play sport and women dance and look pretty. Its not subtle. I am afraid that I will continue to write off adidas until they stop writing off women.

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