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ASA green lights Nike ad accused of showing ‘irresponsible’ pregnant exercise

The Advertising Standards Authority has decreed that no action is required concerning a Nike advert depicting pregnant women engaged in sports after nine complainants expressed concern that such activities ran counter to recommended health advice for pregnant women and as such the advert was ‘irresponsible’.

The footage in question constituted part of a television ad, also screened as video on demand on All4 and ITV Hub, in addition to a YouTube video screened in March.

Viewers were presented with scenes of mothers and pregnant women as well as professional sports stars such as Serena Williams undertaking strenuous activities such as kick-boxing, weight-lifting and tennis to show that anyone can be an athlete.

Depicting the realities of exercise with motherhood, the ads also showed women exercising while taking care of their babies while a voiceover asked: “So, can you be an athlete? If you aren’t, no one is.”

When taken to task over its representation of women in this way, Nike explained that it was celebrating the power of women’s bodies while encouraging mothers to stay fit. The sportswear brand added that it had consulted with a pre- and postnatal exercise specialist to ensure compliance with medical guidelines.

The advert had also been pre-approved for broadcast by Clearcast, which said that the ad simply aimed to encourage women to continue exercising safely and responsibly while pregnant.

Weighing up the evidence, the ASA decided not to uphold the complaints despite pregnant women not being expressly differentiated from professional sportswomen in the piece, potentially encouraging some women to exceed their usual levels of exertion in line with NHS guidance.

Setting out its rationale, the ASA wrote: “... we considered the ad’s audience would infer that the women featured were all fit and trained individuals who were not new to the sports or exercises they were doing.

“We considered viewers would understand that the scenes and voiceover were intended to draw parallels between taking part in sporting endeavors and the challenges of motherhood.”

When setting out the complaints against the Committee of Advertising Practice code on social responsibility, specifically the likelihood of causing harm and offense, the adverts were found not to be in breach and thus no action need be taken by Nike.

Last year The Drum explored how Nike has got more young women playing sport by drawing athletes and TikTok users together.

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