Does This Really Sell Netball?
By Sam Squiers
I love women’s sports campaigns. Nothing gives me goose bumps and leaves me beaming with pride quite like seeing women’s sports publicised and promoted in all the right ways. Saying that, the new ANZ Netball Championships’ promotion left me perplexed.
Actually, it made me cringe.
It all starts off so well using the recent global push to redefine the notion of “like a girl”. Now that was a good campaign. The Netball promo starts with close ups of some of our best netballers, Kimberlee Green, Laura Geitz, Geva Mentor. They run and the words “Run Like A Girl” appear on the screen. They then jump up to take a catch, “Jump Like A Girl” appears, then the same for “Throw Like A Girl. It then cuts to some great action shots from last year’s competition, intercepts, obstructions, fast passes . The Swifts Sharni Layton appears on screen with a bloodshot, black eye with the words “Play Like A Girl”.
Hang on, what?
The image shown, the look on her face, the music used instantly reminds me of a domestic violence campaign.
I suddenly feel bad for thinking this.
I’m constantly campaigning for women’s sports and am the first to say the athletes are tough and their game far from slow or weak. I urge those unfamiliar with women’s sports to watch the rugby union and league, the hits are hard, the girls are tough, I say. Yet straight away I have a problem when I see this image. It doesn’t sell women’s sports as tough at all.
There are other ways of conveying that message without this confronting image. The game has demonstrated inspiring scenes of toughness, heroism, strength, guts and glory throughout its years. A bloodshot, black eye doesn’t. Do you need a black eye to prove the players are tough?
I can see what the promoters were trying to say, but they just fell awkwardly short.
Images of blood, bruises, black eyes and beatings have flooded many men’s sports’ advertisements for years. But the same model of promotion doesn’t necessarily transfer over to the women’s game. Too often we try to use what’s successful in the men’s game in our own without realising they are different games, competitions and target audiences. What works for men doesn’t necessarily work for women. Nor should it.
The biggest advantage men’s sports have over women’s is history. The notion of the male athlete has been around in society’s consciousness long before the professional female athlete. Women’s sports are still building their identity. Don’t shun your strengths in a bid to demonstrate a male notion of toughness.
Nowadays though, even the bloody and injury mosaiced promotion of male sports risks backlash from critics who say it promotes the wrong image of the game for younger audiences.
This netball ad does too. It screams violence not toughness.
Ironically some of Australian sport’s best promotions show no blood, no black eyes, injuries or accidents. They were made in an era that didn’t support nanny state boundaries nor censorship. There was no concussion rule back then and blood and guts were frequent props on the field. Yet these ads had none of that. It showed men pumping weights, scoring tries, sweating on stair climbs, sand dune sprints. The men hugged when they scored the match winner, kicked a goal, crossed for a try. There are laughs at training, smiles in the locker rooms. There are hard hits, the odd shoulder charge, but no black eyes. It inspires, uplifts and shows real toughness. They are Tina Turner’s Rugby League anthems of 1989 and throughout the 90s.