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'This Girl Can' Campaign Empowering Women of All Shapes and Sizes to Get Active

Sport England, previously known as the English Sports Council, has launched an ad campaign called “This Girl Can,” which uses real women to promote exercise among females.

The campaign’s first 90-second film, aiming to inspire women of all shapes and sizes to get off the couch, has generated more than 2.9 million views on YouTube in its first week and trended at number two on Twitter. FCB Inferno, the London agency behind the film, described it as "a celebration of active women designed to make the attainable aspirational."

"Sport England’s data shows 75 percent of women want to do more sport, so the question was: Why aren’t they doing so?" FCB Inferno planning director Vicki Holgate recently told Fast Company. "Beyond some of the more obvious practical reasons, we found that a huge proportion of women are reluctant for fear of being judged — on their ability (or not), for example, or being perceived as overly competitive or unfeminine. Even for how they look – for many, embarrassment about their weight and fear of Lycra are a major concern."

The ambition for the campaign was therefore to create an ad that banished these fears and inspired women to go out and exercise anyway. The resultant commercial features women of all shapes and sizes sweating it out in any way they can — from solo running and boxing to group dance and netball — with "I jiggle, therefore I am" and "I kick balls. Deal with it" among the lines used to prompt a change in attitudes and help boost women’s confidence.

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"The aim was to create a celebration of ordinary women smashing through the many and different barriers each face," FCB Inferno copywriter Simon Cenamor said. "We had a desire to feature as wide an array of women and sports as we could, and an outline of a script. But it only really came together when we began working with director Kim Gehrig (through production company Somesuch) and set about street casting."

While the conventional sports ads launched by companies such as Nike and Adidas, featuring top athletes, may be inspiring for those already proactive in sport, they can alienate an audience who are reluctant to get started. That’s why casting director Leanne Flint approached women from across the country outside gyms and out on a run to feature in the new ad. The focus was to find real women who embody the spirit of the “This Girl Can” campaign.

After the ad was shot in September, a range of the women were featured in shorter clips that were posted online as a preview before the launch of the full campaign last week. A few of the lines extracted from these short films (such as one about a young girl having a beautiful manicure beneath her boxing gloves) now feature in the poster and TV commercial outlets.

Sport England has also set up an online resource for women to learn more about various sports and exercise options in their area. FCB Inferno and Sport England are hoping that "This Girl Can" becomes an exclusive brand in its own right.

"Not only are we encouraging women to use the 'This Girl Can' branding when sharing their achievements, we hope it will become widely adopted by local sports organisations, too," Cenamor says. "It’s not just about the ads but all about celebrating being active and the fact that getting up and going out there to do whatever you do is cool."

“This Girl Can” is the latest in a recent spate of thought-provoking campaigns aimed at women and girls, encouraging them to explore their full potential, regardless of perceived gender norms — from Always’ effort to reframe the belittling phrase “Like a Girl” to companies such as Goldie Blox and LEGO encouraging young girls to explore their interest in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math — another area with a massive gender gap) through their toys.


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