By Sharona Friedman

Over the past month, Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ marketing campaign has returned to billboards and TVs across the country. Originally created two years ago as an attempt to inspire women to participate in sport, its success was remarkable. If you haven’t come across This Girl Can before, or haven’t come across the new campaign yet, here are its main promotional videos:

This Girl Can 1 (2015):

This Girl Can 2 (2017):

In marketing, we like to be able to measure the success of a campaign against its original goals. Firstly and most importantly, This Girl Can reported to have persuaded 1.6 million more women to start exercising following its release. 2.8 million women said they became ‘more active’ following the release of the ads. This is an incredible, unheard of impact.

Within the marketing industry itself, Sport England’s Tanya Joseph was awarded Marketer of the Year status for being the brains behind the campaign. This Girl Can accounted for 37 million social video views and close to one million tweets using #ThisGirlCan, as well as receiving a number of industry awards including nine prestigious Cannes Lions.

The groundbreaking nature of the campaign is the reason for much of its success.

This Girl Can smashed perceptions about females participating in sport. It told us that in order to be accomplished in sport, you don’t have to have a certain physique. It shouted loudly that playing sport, getting sweaty, and being active is feminine. This really hit home with me as a fitness and sports enthusiast – working in marketing.

I love being a marketer and am usually very proud to be one, but one of the things that saddens me about our profession is the body image issues that we’ve given women over the years. Since the inception of marketing, women have been portrayed to look a certain way in order to be idolised and achieve status, including in sport. It’s disheartening to feel like I’m associated with that.

My first reaction to This Girl Can’s promo video therefore was to be happily surprised. It’s so refreshing to see women’s body issues dealt with head on. Women of all shapes and sizes can accomplish great things – even with mascara running down your face! It is a campaign filled with encouraging, positive imagery for women and frankly it’s about time. I am a fitness fanatic myself, and this campaign makes me feel like I should be very proud of that. Women’s sport was already booming – I have heard that women’s football is the fastest growing sport in the world – and now women are being encouraged to embrace a fit and sporty lifestyle in their everyday lives too.

In my role at UCFB, I’m proud to push the female agenda, especially to promote careers in sport to girls as a viable opportunity for them. Every year we are increasing the percentage of females we have studying degrees here, and we make sure our marketing reflects this – although it’s a long-term mission. I’m always impressed by the inspiring female academics that many of our students are able to learn from at our campuses, including former professional athletes, employees from sports federations, top clubs and the media. I’m also fortunate enough to work with some amazing women at The Football Association and League Managers Association. They all do their part in paving the way for the next generation of women in sport.

It will take time and an ongoing, concerted effort for women to achieve parity in this industry, and the most sustainable change happens by evolution, not revolution. But This Girl Can exemplifies how marketing, and wider society, is coming out of the dark ages regarding attitudes to women, fitness and sport. Campaigns like this will have wider effects on female health, confidence and well-being, not to mention improving quality and duration of life through exercise. It may even lead to more females in sports boardrooms too in the near future!

I’m happy to see marketing contribute to being a force for good with women’s psychology and active lifestyles. It makes me very proud to be a female marketer today, especially in education and sport.