Women In Sport

Trends / Realness
Eri Miura
Jacqueline Bourke
Feb 18, 2020

With 2020 bringing forth the Olympics, sports coverage will influence how women are visualised in sport.
Here is what you need to know when showing women in sport in your visual brand storytelling.
2019 was a pivotal year for the representation of women in sport.  Brands like Nike got straight to the heart of addressing the gender gap in sport with their compelling 'Dream Crazier' campaign. They partnered with Serena Williams, a monumental athlete who has powerfully redefined women in tennis in the twenty first century as a game focused on power.

Iconic visuals like US footballer Megan Rapinoe’s arms outstretched in celebration of the US team winning the Women's World Cup moved the needle forward in the parity between female sport coverage that has been so out of balance with male coverage in sport. The 2019 coverage of the Women's World Cup was on a par with moments captured that is typical of men's football, showing the same dynamic and sense of movement and skill expected from great sports photography.

Yet, there was commentary on how the US women's football team were celebrating their wins on the field throughout the competition, with some seeing it not being a feminine way to celebrate. This controversy only helped to make it more iconic and expose the gender imbalance of different expectations for representation of women versus men in sport.
"Powerful sports visuals shift perceptions and liberate women from the judgements that hold them back from participating in sport. "
The power of sport to show women as iconic and aspirational is vital to bridge the gender gap in sport. Data consistently shows that women are not participating in sport in the same numbers as men and this goes for the younger generations. The Women's Sports Foundation has found by age 14, many girls are dropping out of sports at two times the rate of boys. One of many the issues identified from widespread research is the lack of media coverage of women's sport beyond the Olympics.

Yet the interest in women's sport is on the rise. According to a 2018 Nielsen report, 84% of general sports fans now have an interest in women's sports. This presents huge opportunities for brands.

Powerful visuals shift perceptions and liberate women from the judgements that hold them back from participating in sport.  In the not too recent past, women's representation in sport was intertwined with the lens of beauty where women in sport were often seen as unattractive or unfeminine. However, with the diversification around beauty that is happening across visual storytelling in advertising, fashion and media, a significant shift is taking place in representing women in sport. Quite simply, visual language is moving away from how a female athlete looks to focusing on their power, skill and determination.
When choosing visuals of women in sport:
  • Defy gender stereotypes by showing what female athletes are capable of rather than what they look like.
  • Reflect the energy and power of editorial visuals from key professional sporting events.
  • Focus on females that are action‑oriented and not passive.
  • Remember also to show female support staff because it tells a more multi‑dimensional experience of the power, skill and sustained role of women's involvement in sport as a whole. Consider a whole range of emotions in addition to joy, such as anger, disappointment, determination, frustration, love, pain, happiness.
  • Above all, consider diversity in age, ethnicity, ability and realistic body shapes for the sport you are showing.
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