Dear Sports Marketing, Selling Sex is Lazy
Women are calling bullshit on sports marketing. Whether it's professional athletes having their talents overshadowed by their good looks - or replacing the athletes with models instead, the outdoor industry routinely misses the mark when selling to anyone outside of the generic "outdoorsmen" stereotype.
Surfer Karen Knowlton recently called out Billabong in a piece aptly titled, "F*ck you, Billabong. Seriously, Fuck You." where she points out the athletic apparel company's lack of female athletes on its website. Instead, women appear in sexually titillating poses as if they're just waiting for the rugged surfer men to finish a set (see above photo). When was the last time anyone used a photo of a man sporting his best "come hither" look on the beach to sell a pair of swim trunks?
Rockclimbing Superstar, Sasha DiGiulian penned this op-ed in Outside Magazine blasting major companies such as Nike, Adidas, and Reebok for featuring high-fashion models posed as female athletes rather than pulling from the pool of women they sponsor. Some companies may argue that the social media influence that comes with a celebrity endorsement builds brand awareness however brands rarely feature male models in place of male professional athletes. So what gives?
Recently certain brands have seen the light. Outdoor Research recently released "Where The Wild Things Play" - a video homage to the badass ladies doing what they do best by filmmaker Krystle Wright. Though some were quick to point out that the women's badassery was still framed in the context of the dudes at the bar, and has a notable lack of any women of color.
Meanwhile, REI launched its #ForceOfNature campaign a multi pronged approach that not only puts women front and center in its online media and through REI hosted events, but also encourages vendors who work with REI to employ female reps for women's specific gear to provide better feedback on gear that is tailored to ladies.
Time will only tell whether these marketing initiatives are just that - marketing - or whether they are a step towards equal representation of women.
It often seems easier to ignore the bullshit marketing altogether and go shred, but it's worth noting that just two days after "Fuck You, Billabong. Seriously, Fuck You." was posted, Billabong changed their homepage photo to one featuring a woman actually surfing. Coincedence?