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.
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!