I am pretty sure that I am going to take a lot of heat for this blog post from some of my regular followers but I cannot help it. I love the WTA's Strong is Beautiful campaign. Unlike other women's sports marketing campaigns that come across as cheap, poorly planned and unartistic, this advertising campaign by the WTA is very professionally done, sends a very strong and potent message and focuses on the elite players of the game.
Recently in Time Magazine the article "Game, Sex, Match"does a great job at advocating the position I was originally willing to take about these ads. Nothing more than further sexualization of women's sports. The pictures used in the print advertising versions of the campaign definitely pushed me towards that few. There is no question that there is an element of sexuality to these advertisements. There is also no doubt that a certain segment of the population turn into watch tennis matches to see if they can catch a shot of Maria Sharapova's underwear. Fine. The athletes know that, the WTA knows that and the people that are a fan of the sport as a sport know that. What impresses me however about the advertising campaigns is the feeling of empowerment that I get when I watch them. As a female athlete myself I have always thought that being strong is beautiful and these ads capture that essence. They also do an amazing job at telling a story in their 30 second sets. Take this one, my personal favourite, that features Ana Ivanovic:
For those that cannot get the video feed, in the video she says in a voice over "During the war in Serbia, they bombed us all day and all night, but if I got up early enough, I could practice before the planes came" as she crushes a ball. Brilliant.
How about this one featuring Li Na:
She says "China is a country of 1.3 billion people, yet we've never had a number 1 player or grand slam champion, no pressure." Mothers might like this one with Kim Clijsters:
"Before I had a baby I devoted all my time to tennis, afterwards I had to compromise. Now I give 100% of my time to the baby and 100% to tennis."
The message just LISTENING to these advertisements and watching the sheer athleticism of these women is obvious. We are serious professional athletes and we kick butt. As for the fact that they are dressed in ridiculous dresses? It doesn't really bother me. The artist in me likes the contrast of complete physical exertion that these athletes show in the video combined with a girly dress.
Sure it is ridiculous, but it has gotten all of us talking about it hasn't it? It has also garnered a HUGE following on the internet. Kim Clijster's video has over 180,000 page views, Li Na over 300,000. How many women's sports advertisements do you know that have went viral? It will be interesting to see how far the WTA pushes the marketing campaign and what further advertisements are made.
I like the video ads that they have done so far but they certainly are walking a very fine line. I would have liked the ads just as much, and probably more, if the women were in their regular tennis outfits rather than evening gowns.
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