It doesn’t encourage women to “go hard, or go home”. It doesn’t feature women with perfect-looking bodies parading around in Lycra barely breaking a sweat.
It doesn’t tell women they ‘should’ be working out, to lose weight, or whatever.
The new national campaign, by Sport England, This Girl Can, has been developed to tackle the gender gap, in which more men play sport than women at any age.
It aims to represent a celebration of all active women and promote the message that whatever your size, ability or previous experience, sport can be a fun and enjoyable part of your life.
There are TV and cinema ads, and a poster campaign, all aiming to depict women who exercise for themselves, for the love of it, for the countless benefits they get from it – not worrying about looking sweaty, or going the wrong way in an aerobics class, or riding their bike at a slow pace, or whether their thighs wobble when they jog.
It features women like Victoria, a 29-year-old A&E nurse, whose spin classes give her the boost she needs to cope after a stressful night shift. And 31-year-old Kelly, who pops on a workout DVD at home, so being a single mum doesn’t have to stop her exercising.
Sport England are aiming to show exercise is for everyone, to get their sweat on and the endorphins pumping.
Jennie Price, chief executive of Sport England, said: “We did a lot of research beforehand and while we developed the campaign.
“If you’re a bit uncomfortable with your body – and lots of women are, even if they don’t really need to be – you have this dialogue in your head that says ‘I’m not really good enough for this, I’m not fit enough to be in that gym, I can’t put those trousers on because my thighs are enormous’. Whether they are or not is irrelevant. One of the things we’re trying to get across in this campaign is if you feel like that, you’re not alone – but there is a way to think about exercise and sport where that doesn’t get in the way.
“It’s absolutely fine to do this, whatever you look like and however you feel.”
Katie Mason, bikini fitness competitor and model, fitness and nutrition advisor and Ribby Hall sport and leisure ambassador, said: “I love this campaign. If Sport England set out to stoke a little fire in the belly, this blend of motivational music and dynamic imagery certainly does that.
“In little over a minute, a lasting impression energetic enough to break through barriers – which really do prevent women exercising – is delivered with a punch. Regardless of our age, ability or experience; the sweat, smiles, cameradie and dedication depicted, captures the essence of what fitness is really about. You can almost taste the endorphins!
“Empowering to say the least, I certainly think it stirs up a little ‘I can’ in all of us.”
Tricia Ellis, a Blackpool-based women’s running coach who set up the Goal-den Girls over 50s running group, said: “It is a refreshing change to see ‘normal’ looking women when you watch the new video for This Girl Can campaign. It sends out a positive message to all women that they can exercise – no matter what their shape and size.
“Women have many issues to overcome before they even start exercising. They may have disliked physical exercise at school and had a negative experience.
“Or they don’t feel they can do it. They worry about getting laughed at and suffer with poor body image.
“Women need help to change their outlook on exercise and see it more as fun rather than a punishment. If anyone is apprehensive about exercise I would encourage them to get involved in a group activity.”
Rachel Walker, sports maker at Blackpool and The Fylde College, is planning to use the campaign to positively engage female students in sport. She said: “At the college, we know from speaking to students that girls tend to be self-conscious about their body image and they don’t always think it’s normal or acceptable to be seen as sporty, or to get sweaty. We want to challenge those perceptions and get the message across that physical activity can be fun, it’s something you can do with friends and it’s sociable. The advertising campaign is perfectly aligned to what we are trying to achieve and we’ll be sharing the images through our social media pages and encouraging tutors to discuss the messages during tutorial sessions.”
And ice skating star Katie Stainsby, of St Annes – who featured in the hit TV show Dancing On Ice – said she felt anything encouraging exercise could not be a bad thing.
But she has concerns about the stereotyping of women in typical ads for exercise – which the campaign was supposedly trying to move away from.
“I don’t like the way these campaigns always seem to stereotype women – or a certain type of woman: sweating, looking aggressive, with a gaggle of friends all on a mission, like crazed housewives, determined to – and I quote from the ad ‘feel like a fox.’
“Why are women now supposed to assume stereotypical male traits? Why are there no men and women exercising in these adverts together?
“Why are there no thin women in these ads? There are a lot of thin women, who are just as unhealthy as bigger-figured women.
“Being active and exercising is a wonderful thing, I feel this pigeon-holes the whole thing into yet again being about how good you can make yourself look. And for who or what?
“There is always so much emphasis on balls sports, swimming and athletics in this country, there doesn’t seem to be much interest in the most technically and physically demanding sports such as dance, gymnastics and ice-skating.
“Now women have equality, it seems we are expected to enrol at our local rugby or boxing clubs – or we are failures as the modern-day ‘fox’.”
For more information, visit www.thisgirlcan.co.uk.