Asics UK latest #IMoveMe campaign is disturbing on a number of levels. If you haven’t seen it, the company recently teamed up with Elite Models in a campaign to “encourage active, healthy living.” It features men and women in athletic gear, with the latter very young, very petite and very white. While Asics UK’s previous marketing campaigns have been relatively diverse, this one falls by the wayside.
We don’t buy it, and we suspect that most women won’t. Not the ones who look in a mirror and eye their bumps rather than their beauty. Who’ve struggled to jam their jiggly bits into bathers behind a flimsy dressing room curtain. Who’re young women, with all the stresses and conflicting emotions that changing shape during puberty causes. In this diverse world, it’s hard to identify with a campaign that leaves most of us invisible.
Let’s be clear, Netball Scoop doesn’t have an axe to grind with thin women. There are many naturally occurring petite people leading healthy and active lives. Their body shape should be just as celebrated as their curvier cousins. In this context however, we believe that Asics UK have missed the mark.
It’s a sad fact that females are six times more likely to drop out of sport than males, mainly in their teenage years. Many of them never go back, to the detriment of their health. Ground breaking research by the Cleveland Clinic has shown that a sedentary lifestyle is far more likely to cause death than smoking, diabetes and heart disease. It’s not by a small margin either – smokers were three times less likely to die than couch-sitters.
Cleveland Clinic’s longitudinal study followed over 122 000 patients between 1991 and 2014. Included in their findings were that people with sedentary lifestyles had a 390% greater risk of dying than those who were moderately active, and a 500% greater risk than elite athletes. The brilliant news is that those figures are reversible. People can start to exercise at any age.
While exercise is physically healthy, it also has a profound impact on improving our emotional wellbeing, our mental health and staving off disease. You’re never alone playing a team sport. In 2013 Netball Scoop published Letters from Zambia, a brilliant look at how netball is changing the lives of some of the poorest women on earth. While it doesn’t touch on their physical health, there is little doubt of the benefits of sport to them.
Read Letters from Zambia here:
Unfortunately for females, there are a host of reasons standing in the way of leading a more active lifestyle. Studies by the University of Toronto identified that major limiting factors include self-consciousness of body image and a lack of positive role models. In 2015, Sport England found that 75% of women surveyed would like to do more exercise but were limited by time, money and emotional barriers. They were afraid of being judged; for not fitting the mould of what an athlete should look like.
As a result, Sport England started the inspirational This Girl Can campaign, which targeted women of all ages, ethnicities and sizes. It worked. After Sport England released the clip and it’s follow up Fit Got Real, nearly three million women in the United Kingdom were inspired to become more active.
Many of them were elderly, an age group particularly vulnerable healthwise if they aren’t exercising. In an age when we are bombarded by images of stylised “perfection”, women became less afraid to use their not so perfect bodies. The campaign and its instigator, outgoing CEO Jennie Price, won multiple awards for it.
Fortunately companies such as Nike and Adidas have recognised that women are diverse, and have introduced plus-size athletic wear into their ranges. While their decision may be more financially than morally motivated, they are catering for women of all shapes. Economically it makes sense. In the USA alone, the plus-size market is worth over 20 billion dollars annually, and is experiencing a growth rate of 4.4% per annum. No other fashion sector comes close.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are Lorna Jane and Lululemon, whose refusal to manufacture any sizes bigger than a 16 has brought them under fire in the media. They’re entitled to clothe who they want, but their dismissive attitude towards bigger women has led to an emotional backlash against them.
Active wear sizing by company
|Company||Sizing||Maximum waist||Maximum hip|
|Adidas||XXS – 2XL||104cm||124cm|
|Fabletics||XXS – 3X||124.5cm||139.5cm|
|Lorna Jane||XXS – XL||85cm||113cm|
|Lululemon||2/XXS – 12/XL||84cm||109cm|
|Nike||XS – 3X||128cm||148cm|
|Puma||XXS – 3XL||98cm||124cm|
Along with self-consciousness, a lack of positive role models in the media is another major reason for females choosing not to exercise. Statistics are hard to argue with. In the United Kingdom and Australia, less than 3% of newspaper sporting images are of female athletes. They trail a very distant third behind male competitors and horses. There are many incredible female athletes around the world, but they struggle to make it into print.
Why should we be clamouring for more images of our sportswomen? While the general population has as little in common with an elite athlete as an Elite Model, at some fundamental level we recognise the commitment, perseverance and courage that it takes to achieve at the highest level of sport. Along with the simple messages around healthy nutrition and exercise, they are qualities we all aspire to. Our athletes are worth emulating.
At Netball Scoop we celebrate diversity and believe that Asic UK’s #IMoveMe recent campaign is fundamentally flawed. Their parent company, Asics, have cornered a large chunk of the netball market with their sport-specific shoes.
As a result, over the next week we will be sharing some of our favourite images of elite netballers with you. You’ll notice their physical differences. You’ll also notice their similarities: their power, confidence, grace, determination and downright beauty. Netball Scoop celebrates these women in all their fierce glory.
We hope you enjoy the series, and please support our #CelebratingStrongWomen campaign on social media.