Under Armour launched its ad campaign I Will What I Want this summer. The campaign is supposed to empower athletic women and athletes to will what they want despite criticism, and setbacks along the road to living their dreams and accomplishing their goals. Under Armour wants to broaden their market in women’s athletic apparel through this campaign. Under Armour recently announced that world renowned, super model, Gisele Bünchend, would be joining the ranks of the I Will What I Want campaign. How does hiring the world’s top paid super model for one of the world’s top athletic brands empower female athletes and athletic females everywhere?
To give you some perspective, this would be the equivalent of Under Armour hiring Sean O’Pry, Gisele’s male counterpart named number one on the Forbes 2013 Highest Paid Models list, as a spokesperson for their male marketing campaign to reach a broader male market. Would that ever happen? Hell no, absolutely not. I guarantee you the majority of Under Armour’s target market have no idea who Sean O’Pry is. It is also safe to say that many of Under Armour’s male customers would be wildly confused by a world renowned model as a focal point for Under Armour’s football or basketball campaigns. Under Armour’s male marketing campaigns feature star professional athletes like Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers’ quarterback; Eddie Lacey, Green Bay Packers’ running back; and Stephen Curry, point guard for the Golden State Warriors. Notable names for their talent and game, not their looks, sex appeal, or physique. Under Armour’s I will What I Want campaign does feature professional female athletes: Olympic world champion downhill skier, Lindsey Vonn; ballerina, Misty Copeland; professional tennis player, Sloane Stephens; professional and national team soccer player, Kelley O’Hara; and professional surfer, Brianna Cope. Yet, amongst these talented athletes a super model has emerged as the focal point of the campaign.
When you think about great female athletes, I would hope that Gisele Bünchend is the absolute farthest thing from your mind. I am sure she works out and works hard to maintain her figure, I have absolutely no doubt about it. When it comes to competing, when it comes to staring an opponent in the face and knowing that they’re physically coming for you just as hard as you are coming for them, running that extra suicide or lifting that extra five pounds, or pushing through the bruises, sprains, breaks, and blood to become a top-tier athlete, Gisele Bünchend is not the woman I would nominate to “will what she wants.” In a country, where young women obsess over the unhealthy and unattainable “thigh gap,” starve to be size 0, over train to try to get more toned, and in a country where young women are under pressure to always look beautiful, a super model is what Under Armour uses its posture in the world to speak to female athletes everywhere? Again, the ridiculous standard is set that being an athlete not only means “willing what you want,” but fitting a certain image while doing so. How many more girls would compete in athletics if there was not a pressure to fit a certain image, to be beautiful or thin? How many girls would compete better on the court, or playing field if they weren’t thinking about what someone in the stands was thinking about how they looked or if they looked “gross” because they were sweating? This super model image needs to stop here.
When it comes to willing what they want, how about trailblazers like: Candace Parker, first woman to dunk in a NCAA tournament game, second to dunk in WNBA history, and best rookie debut season in the WNBA; or Abby Wambach, all time international soccer goal scoring record holder not only on the women’s side of things, but trumping the males as well, 2012 FIFA World Player of the year, and two time Olympic gold medalist; or how about Donna “the animal” Wilkinson, two-time International Federation of American Football Women’s World Champion, the first running back in female football history to exceed 1,000-yards rushing?
An image, an icon like Gisele Bünchend is what women’s athletic apparel and marketing needs to get away from and fast. Feature real athletes who have “willed what they want,” share their stories, and make them the focal point of a campaign like this. Brands like Under Armour have the platform to show women how powerful, strong, and athletic they can be, free of the ridiculous beauty and size standards. Our male counterparts would gawk at a male Under Armour campaign with a male model as the focal point; ladies, it’s time we started doing the same.
Abby Wambach. N.p., 2014. Web. 06 Sept. 2014. <http://www.abbywambach.com/about>.
Candace Parker. N.p., 26 Sept. 2010. Web. 06 Sept. 2014. <http://www.candaceparker.com/bio/>.
“Donna Wilkinson.” Donna Wilkinson. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Sept. 2014. <http://www.donnawilkinson.net/>.
Le, Vanna. “The World’s Top-Earning Male Models Of 2013.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 2 Sept. 2014. Web. 06 Sept. 2014. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/vannale/2013/10/08/the-worlds-highest-paid-male-models-2013-oprys-1-5m-still-far-from-giseles-42m/>.
Ozanian, Mike. “The Forbes Fab 40: The World’s Most Valuable Sports Brands.”Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 17 Oct. 2012. Web. 06 Sept. 2014. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikeozanian/2012/10/17/the-forbes-fab-40-the-worlds-most-valuable-sports-brands-4/>.