World’s best ads ever #31: Sport England creates a movement with ‘This Girl Can’
We asked our readers to vote for their favorite commercials of all time. Top creatives from the World Creative Rankings and The Drum’s Judges’ Club then ranked the ads. Now, we bring you the definitive 100 best TV and video ads of all time.
Very few ads can claim to have created a bona fide social movement. Sport England’s ’This Girl Can’ can.
Launched in 2015, the campaign had a very particular data-backed remit: to correct for the fact that 2 million fewer British women participated in sports than men, while three-quarters of women aged 14 to 40 said that they would like to exercise more. Sport England found that a good deal of that gap is down to women’s fear of judgment – based on body type, sporting ability or the guilt of missing out on other commitments.
The campaign, delivered by agency FCB Inferno, was tasked with encouraging women to take part in sport by helping them to overcome fear of judgment. Its centerpiece, the ‘What About You?’ ad, features an array of women with varying body types and skill levels engaging in every sort of sporting activity, from open water swimming to squash and dance. Sweat and toil are in evidence and photoshop proudly rejected across the campaign.
Direct, playful lines of copy overlay the montage, such s ’I jiggle therefore I am’ and ’I kick balls – deal with it’. It plays out to Missy Elliott’s Get Ur Freak On – reportedly the first time Elliott authorized commercial use of her music.
Helmed by star director Kim Gehrig, it won a Glass Lion, two Gold Lions and the United Nations Foundation Grand Prix for Good at Cannes, among a clutch of other rewards.
Some criticized the ad for dressing up garden-variety female objectification in the language of empowerment, but the response was otherwise hugely positive. Within a few months, an independent study found that the campaign had influenced 2.8 million women to engage in a more active lifestyle; 1.6 million of those said that they’d started exercising for 30 minutes or more after seeing the ad.
But real change requires longevity; the seven years since the ad’s launch have solidified its impact. Follow-ups have dropped regularly since, right up to a new partnership with Strava this very month to help women get moving post-lockdown.
Now a well-established movement, ’This Girl Can’ now says that nearly 4 million women have been persuaded by the campaign to take action; that number will only increase as the campaign spreads around the world (first stop: Victoria, Australia).