By Tony Connelly, Sports Marketing Reporter

February 24, 2017 | 4 min read

This Girl Can’ has returned to empower more women to overcome judgement and take up exercise with a new campaign featuring the work of iconic poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou.

The second installment of Sport England’s hugely successful campaign, which is estimated to have encouraged 2.8 million women to become more active, stays true to the original formula while incorporating new insights and messages.

The new film for the campaign features a soundtrack playing alongside a narrative of Maya Angelou’s 1978 poem ‘Phenomenal Woman’ as read by the famous US poet who passed away in 2014.

As part of the campaign’s efforts to reach a broader age demographic the film profiles the personal stories of 15-year-old trampolinist, Cerys McIntosh, and 69-year-old outdoor swimmer Sue Bairstow.

It also brings to life the efforts which new mum Stephanie Outlaw, student kickboxer Fakhira Mohamad Hassan Mukhtar and blade-runner Debbie Squance go to in overcoming the anxieties that can hold women back.

Artwork from the campaign also includes personal lines from featured women – with phrases such as 'Unleash your inner beginner' and 'Take me as I am or watch me as I go'. The mantras are based on research from a survey of 200,000 people that highlighted common worries such as not being good enough, or overcoming stereotypes about what women should or shouldn’t do.

In addition to the artwork a new digital approach will allow women to capture their own This Girl Can mantra image for social media using a dedicated web-based app.

Sport England chief executive, Jennie Price, hailed the impact which the campaign has made since its launch in 2015 but stressed that “there’s a lot more to do”.

“Our research showed the dialogue many of us have in our heads about whether we look OK, whether we are good enough, whether we belong here, [it] doesn’t go away - we just learn to manage it,” said Price. “That’s why the reinforcement of seeing women who look like us playing sport and talking honestly about how they feel about it is so powerful.”

The latest phase of the initiative, created by FCB Inferno, addresses the mental hurdles which people feel when returning to exercise after taking a break, which often makes the idea of exercising all the more daunting.

“A new message this time is something women don’t usually hear: it’s OK to take a break, to have a week off, to walk not run,” continued Price. “No-one is saying this to us. Few magazines say it; sports brands don’t say it.

"Many of the women we’ve featured talk about stopping, then starting again. It can feel like the hardest thing in the world to return after a few weeks off, when you fear you’ve lost ground or fitness, but we want to surface this as a discussion point, to say it’s normal to take a break, but that needn’t stop you for good."

Sharon Jiggins, managing director of FCB Inferno, added: “We wanted to move the campaign on to encourage even more women to get active. The Maya Angelou poem ‘Phenomenal Women’ has the power to do this. It is a celebration of women everywhere, creates a strong sense of belonging and inclusivity, whilst challenging stereotypes.”

The 'This Girl Can' campaign has been widely praised throughout the advertising industry for its approach and the results which it has achieved. However the foundations of its success are built upon the efforts of brands like Nike, Under Armour and Adidas who over the years have invested heavily in encouraging women to take up exercise before Sport England launched their campaign.

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