‘This Girl Can’ launches TV ad as it aims to ‘normalise’ women doing exercise

Sport England’s new campaign will move away from previous focus on body image to promote the “shared attitude and mental state of mind” that exercise can offer.


Sport England has released the TV ad for the second push of its ‘This Girl Can’ campaign as it looks to further close the gap between the proportion of men and women doing sport.

The campaign, created by FCB Inferno, will air on television today (24 February). Like the previous ad, it features ‘real’ women alongside the voice of iconic poet Maya Angelou and her poem ‘Phenomenal Woman’.

Sport England says the gender gap in terms of sport participation is coming down, but there is still “a long way to go”, which is why another phase of the campaign is needed.

It has taken away five learnings from the previous campaign, which in turn informed its latest marketing programme. For example, it learnt that Sport England was right to show “regular women in regular settings” – as it meant viewers could relate to the women on screen.

Sports brands often say that you’ll find sport and you’ll love it and be transformed. It’s not like that.

Lisa O’Keefe, Sport England

The company also decided to emphasise the message that it’s “normal to take a break from exercise – as long as it doesn’t stop you for good”.

“It’s okay if you try one thing and it’s not right or that you’re in and out, and that’s not a message people often get. Sports brands often say that you’ll find sport and you’ll love it and be transformed. It’s not like that,” Lisa O’Keefe, director of insight at Sport England, said during a press screening of the ad yesterday (23 February).

READ MORE: Tanya Joseph on the future of ‘This Girl Can’ and Sport England’s strategy

The fear of judgement also does not go away, which is why the ad looks to increasingly reassure women that they’re not alone.

It has also expanded its age range to include 60-year-olds, after finding that the fear of judgement and insecurities still exist as women get older. Older women also sometimes have a “dated” view on sport, thinking they can only do “traditional” sports they played at school. As a result, the ad shows a wider variety of sports including trampolining, dancing or doing an exercise bootcamp.

“The original film was focused more on body image. Now we wanted to bring in the whole shared attitude and mental state of mind as well, so that women know they’re not alone in we’re all in this together,” explained O’Keefe.

Building momentum on social media

Sport England

The first This Girl can campaign was hugely successful, encouraging 2.8m women to get more active. Sport England released the out-of-home posters for this second phase at the end of January to build momentum and “create a sense of excitement”.

“In terms of the response to the outdoor posters so far, we’ve seen behaviour from the original campaign repeated in terms of people taking pictures of the creative and tweeting them. Obviously they’re getting far more reach,” O’Keefe said.

“We were interested in doing outdoor first to create buzz and a sense of excitement and re-engage the community, so we’ve already set the scene of what’s to come.”

Going forward, the sports body will be working with the industry at large to encourage more women to take up sport. However, social media will also be hugely important to keeping the conversation going.

As Kate Dale, campaign lead at Sport England, concluded: “Through our social activity we can normalise women like me being active, and where women can share their fears and sense of humour. Social is critical to keeping the campaign going.”