adidas #mygirls (by adidas)

This was also posted on my cycling blog, but I feel really strongly about it, so I’m cross-posting here…

Sometimes I see an advert that just grabs me, and says something so right, that makes me smile so much, that I think “fuck it, from now on, I’m only ever buying from you”.  Yes, I know the primary goal is to make money, but bloody hell, the adidas #mygirls campaign does so much more, I can’t stop watching the ads.  Here’s the cycling filmette, featuring Hannah Walker of Matrix Fitness Racing Academy and a group of young British cycling girls like Penny Rowson and Eli Thorogood of the Breast Cancer Care Cycling Team.  And below the jump I’ll try to be a bit more sensible about why I love these ads.

We’ve talked a bit about marketing on the blog, and I recommend Dan’s posts about it here, and his blog on Digitoro - but one of the things that is always interesting to me is how advertising so very rarely speaks to me, and is more likely to turn me off than on.  Part of the problem has always been not seeing myself in - and being repelled by things I’m supposed to aspire to.  I think about the ads for make-up and cleaning products, for example, and they show a vision of femininity that goes against everything I believe.  And the average ad around sports, well that seems to be as much about women looking *pretty* for men, while playing sports as anything else.  And then I saw this - and yes, I am predisposed to like things about cycling, especially with young cyclists I’ve met, but this captures so much about what I loved about sport as a teenager.

The first thing that grabbed me was the combination of three things - the fact you work so hard at it, and damn, it hurts; how exhilarating sport can be especially when you win, but even if you don’t; and the camaraderie of sharing all this with your friends.  It reminded me of getting up early to go training in the rain at Crystal Palace Park - and then how it felt racing 1,500m or cross country, that burning in my lungs, that feeling of flying when my body was shouting no, but I could push myself further.  Sitting on the floor of the showers after coming back from DofE expeditions with the girls, all of us too tired to stand, exhausted but laughing at the stupid things we’d just done.  My time as an outdoor activity instructor, jumping off the jetty into the lake.  How it feels riding with the wind in my hair, turning to smile at Vik.  Such pure, perfect moments, no thinking, just being there.  I love that, and any advert that takes me back there and makes me smile, that’s good just in and of itself.

Then, there’s the sports they’ve chosen.  It’s very clever, all of these feel like accessible sports, the girls are portrayed as having very ordinary lives.  They’re not the wealthy tennis club types - and they’re not afraid of getting hurt.  Showing girls getting knocked down in the boxing ring, falling in the velodrome - and getting straight back up and getting on with it.  These sports aren’t glamourous, and the girls don’t care about not looking pretty while they’re doing it - they’re tough cookies, normal girls, who are pushing themselves because they want to, fitting sport into their real lives.  The bits with Hannah loading her bike onto a train, and riding the rollers in her kitchen - that’s real life, that’s accessible, and aspirational too - if I were 14 again and seeing this, it would tell me I can do this too.

The girls all look great, but that’s because they’re having a great time - and that’s so important too.  The friendships - I’d want to be in ALL those girls’ gangs! - and the message they have there, that sport unites girls around the world.  Yes, I *know* it’s cheesy, but it’s also true.  We’re all the same everywhere, united by passions, and it doesn’t matter what you love, as long as you love it with all your heart, and work for it.  And yes, I’d be happy to buy something from the company that encourages that, and promote it - and that’s why this is so clever.  I’m sharing these videos (and check out the site, especially the cycling story) and having conversations about them on twitter and tumblr and in real life, and watching the film-ettes again, because I really, truly believe in the imagery and the ethos and the message. I hope other companies take note - show us what we really aspire to, and we’ll do the marketing for you.  Go one better, sponsor the sport and enable more girls and women to participate, and I’ll support you forever.