‘This Girl Can’ tackles inequality as it vows to ‘leave no woman behind’ in new push

Sport England admits previous campaigns failed to resonate with all women and so it is putting more focus on how women can fit sport into their lives and that any activity, even hula-hopping in the kitchen, counts.

Sport England is bringing back its hugely successful ‘This Girl Can’ campaign with a renewed focus on reaching women that failed to be inspired to take up exercise in the first three years of the campaign.

Research conducted by the government organisation found that despite inspiring almost three million women to take up physical activity since the campaign’s launch in 2015, it hasn’t reached all women “to the same level”. For example, 33.5% of women in lower paid, routine and manual professions are inactive (do less than 30 minutes of exercise a week), twice as many as for women in senior and managerial roles.

The research also found a discrepancy between women and men. While women are still overall more likely to be inactive than men (26.4% versus 23.8%), this gap is much larger for South Asian women (36% versus 27.5% of men).

Speaking to Marketing Week, Sport England’s head of campaign strategy Kate Dale says the aim of this campaign is to tackle that “inequality”.

“Although we’ve really successfully got three million women and girls more active, which is fantastic, [the campaign] hasn’t reached all women to the same level. There are some real inequalities when it comes to activity,” she explains.

“What we wanted to do with the campaign this time, as well as maintaining momentum and still reaching out to all women, we want to be even more inclusive to make sure we really resonate with women from all backgrounds, and where there are more specific or different barriers, tackling those as well.”

Rethinking the role of This Girl Can

Sport England also wanted to rethink the role of This Girl Can in an environment that Dale describes as “very different” to four years ago. She points to movements such as #metoo, as well as the way other brands have become more progressive in the way they portray and advertise to females as reasons why the campaign needed fresh creative.

The new campaign has the strapline ‘Fit Got Real’. Created by agency FCB Inferno, it includes a 30- and 60-second film that shows how real women of different ages, ethnicities and backgrounds fit exercise into their everyday lives. It includes women running round the park pushing a pram, hula-hooping at home, trampolining with friends and teaching themselves how to swim using YouTube.

The film will run across digital and social media and be supported by campaign partners and national PR. For the first time, Sport England has managed to secure funding for at least two years of activity and there are plans to take the campaign above-the-line next year with outdoor ads, although TV is not part of the media mix this time.

The campaign hopes to encourage women who have seen the campaign before but failed to take up activity to see exercise as something for them. Dale admits the previous campaign may have failed to inspire because it focused more on the activity rather than how exercise could fit into people’s lives, so this time the campaign will focus more on women’s stories. It will also look to show that activity can fit into as little as 10 minutes and there is “no one way or right way” to get active.

“Talking to women about the way sports and activity is traditionally marketed, [they said] how it isn’t relevant to their lives and felt like it was more for people with more time, who had the posh exercise wear, who could afford subscriptions. There was a real mix of practical and emotional barriers that were all jumbled up together,” she says.

“It wasn’t just about going in with practical solutions, saying ‘it doesn’t have to cost anything’ or ‘it doesn’t matter what you wear’. There is the need to give practical advice but it’s also understanding the emotional reaction. It’s that thing of, if you’re finding something challenging and someone rushes in with a solution before you’re ready you aren’t prepared to listen and take it on board and think about how it works for you.”

The plan is to build more of a customer journey by making a clearer connection between inspiring women to get active and showing them activity they could take up.

The aim of getting more women to do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week remains, as does the desire to build women’s confidence around being active. But Dale says reaching new socio-economic groups and women from different backgrounds is also key.

“If we didn’t reach those target audiences among women, the socio-economic groups and women from all backgrounds, and get them active that wouldn’t be success for us. We’ve got an internal thing of no women left behind, we believe it’s important we’re resonating and connecting with everyone. It’s not just how many it’s making sure everyone is included,” she states.

Changing how brands market to women

The new campaign has a lot to live up to. As well as successfully encouraging behaviour change among women, the original campaign was creatively successful having won numerous advertising awards. Dale admits the scale of the success “surprised” Sport England, because although they believe the insight was right and the campaign captured that insight they didn’t expect the global response it caused.

That has been important, she says, because it has given Sport England the credibility to encourage other sports brands to think about how they market to women.

“We talk about this being a behaviour change campaign for women, but it’s also a behaviour change for the sports industry and the fitness industry,” she says. “Winning awards is lovely, but when they have the credibility those awards have, it gives the campaign credibility.

“When we’re going into organisations and saying ‘you need to think about the way you’re [advertising to women] because at the moment it’s not meeting the need of people who could be customers’. It’s not just us telling them it’s people who see an awful lot of consumer marketing saying this is an approach that we recognise and is right. It allows us to do even more.”

Dale also believes the advertising industry as a whole has improved how it markets to women, although there is still work to be done. “[It’s wonderful to see] the change in the way women are marketed to now and how women respond to that. Recognising that women actually want to see themselves on screen and you can still sell and make profit on that is fantastic.”

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