Real women inspire us


I work in advertising. It pays the bills far quicker than snowboarding or blogging ever could. Sometimes I feel bad about this. Like that time I worked on fast-food chicken, shouting the benefits of herbs and spices. But other times, I get to really make a positive difference. Like developing an award-winning app to help Australians plan for bush fires, or telling stories of violence in Sydney’s Kings Cross to change behaviour. Opting to add to people’s lives rather than take away is the choice of every good creative. Personally, it helps me sleep better at night.


I have to take my hat off to the creative teams of late. The ones that gave us strong, real women and athletes. The images of the girl next door trying her hardest. These are the women we relate to. Women that inspire us to buy the products so one day (soon), we just might be as strong, motivated and as confident as them. That’s what us active women, aka your customer, want. We can’t relate to the model. Models don’t represent what active sports women want to morph into. We want to become better, stronger, more powerful versions of ourselves. We need better role models and you the marketing teams have the opportunity to create them. So why don’t you?


Let’s have a look at the sports campaigns that made women click, watch, buy, and move their butts. These are the campaigns we want to see more of. Because you know, there is some serious shit we need to address. And I’m not just talking about young girls growing up comparing themselves to models on Instagram or sexualisation of athletes throughout social media changing the female sports sponsorship landscape…



Women don’t exercise from fear of judgment

Give me a nod if you’ve heard of “This Girl Can“? It’s an advertising campaign by the clever team and agencies of Sport England. It amassed 36 million views online. What makes a good creative idea great, is its ability to tap into, and speak to an insight or truth. Something that REALLY connects with you the viewer. It’s the thing that makes you go ‘Oh, yeah, I get that’.


The problem was, 1.75 million fewer women than men are exercising regularly in the UK. Sport England discovered that it wasn’t lack of time, money, or passion that stopped the women exercising. It was fear of judgment. Not wanting to be scrutinized by strangers in the gym, or laughed at by people in the park. So they flipped it on its head and made it OK for women to stick to fingers up to judgment. The end product, with THAT Missy Elliot track, inspired girls all over the UK to run faster, push harder and jiggle their bits with more confidence than before.



Thank you, Sport England.



We don’t have enough female outdoor role models

One other campaign that I was involved in, but this time as an ambassador to help promote the message, was outdoor retailer REI‘s campaign Force Of Nature. Similar to Sport England, they wanted to address the disparity of men to women, in the great outdoors. Seeking their own insight, they conducted a study into what was stopping women from going outside. They discovered that 63% of women’s couldn’t think of a female outdoor role model. That 73% wanted to spend more time outdoors but don’t feel equal to men. The research was alarming and inspired a commitment from their business to support women, from making their clothing suppliers up their female product offerings to providing grassroots outdoor classes across the US.

Strong women are a force of nature REI


Thank you REI.



Where the Wild Things Play

You just need to watch this video below. Outdoor Research knows that women are getting after it and love to be inspired and encouraged by their peers doing the same. A short film made by Krystle Wright, one of the top adventure photographers I profiled last year, this video is on-point. Millions of views on-point. Thousands of shares across my Facebook feed on-point. It got us STOKED.


Thank you Outdoor Research.



Because Like A Girl is NOT an insult

Let’s not forget the Always campaign “Like A Girl“. The winner of the top PR award at the advertising cream-of-the-crop, Cannes festival. The Grand Prix of prizes. It simply doesn’t get better than that. 64 million views for their epic battle to keep girls’ confidence high during puberty and beyond. In their own words:

since the rest of puberty’s really no picnic either, it’s easy to see what a huge impact it can have on a girl’s self-confidence. Making a start by showing them that doing things #LikeAGirl is an awesome thing!



Thank you Always




Read: Do female athletes get stiffed by the sports industry?



So what’s with all the f**king models in your sports ads?


So if showing strong female athletes, inspiring young girls, and using REAL women is winning awards, getting millions of views and inspiring women to buy YOUR clothing and gear, then explain this to me:


Why do you not feature your female athletes in your advertising campaigns?


Were none available? All busy? Of course, you feature your female athletes, but not nearly as many women on your team appear in your ads as the men. Yes, I’m talking to you Nike and your use of Bella Hadid; model, and star of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, as the ‘face of Nike athletic’. Is she more inspiring than Simone Biles, Spencer O’Brien, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova (less the drugs ban)? Of course, we see these athletes on your ads. But we’re confused. When signing Bella Hadid to model Nike’s reissued Nike Cortez sneakers from 1972, surely this was a great opportunity to use one of your track and field athletes? We just don’t get it, you did well with featuring up-and-coming women’s basketball players, and plus size model Paloma Elsesser in your sport’s bra ads. So what’s the go? We want more of that, please.


Ellie Krupnick over at Racked said it so well in Want to Sell Me Sportswear? Show Me an Athlete – Well worth a read.



Oh yeah… and Kendel Jenner is the new face of adidas. Because nothing makes women want to get sweaty in sportswear and fresh running shoes, like a Kardashian sister. F**k me, what is going on in the world?


officially joining the adidas fam! @adidasoriginals #adidasAmbassador #adidasOriginals

A post shared by Kendall (@kendalljenner) on


And Volcom. Gosh, this really was a hard one to see. Why do you opt for a celebrity that has nothing to do with ‘Youth Against Establishment’? More like ‘Youth Against the Selfie‘. You were that brand of our ‘youth’ that we all wanted to ride for, wear and represent. I really hope paying the hefty fee for Mick Jagger’s privileged daughter Georga May, to be the face of Volcom, hasn’t taken away from your female athlete budget. You know, the budget that supports athletes like your snowboard legend Cherly Maas who is recovering from a broken neck so she can win a medal at the first ever women’s big air at the Olympics next year.


Please tell me that’s not the case?  Oh wait, yes it is… you decapitated all but very few riders and most of the long time management team.  Nice one Volcom. Won’t be buying any of your clothes no more.


Shoot me in the face.


I’m not the only one that’s noticed this in action sports marketing. Karen Knowlton wrote a piece just after I published this one called F*ck You Billabong. Seriously, f*ck you that went viral resulting in Billabong changing the homepage of their website. Nice one Karen!


F*ck You Billabong. Seriously, f*ck you.


Isn’t it time for a change?

Recently, I’ve been working on Australia’s biggest sporting event since the Sydney Olympics; the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Next year’s games will be the first that women will be awarded the same amount of medals as men. Let that sink in a second. Only in 2017 is there equality in the medals for men and women…  It will also be the first time sports like boxing and rugby 7s will be added to the roster for the ladies. About time right? Let’s just add that to the list of things women are dealing with here.


We’ve got:

  • Sexualisation of women in sport
  • Fear of judgment
  • Lack of role models
  • Not feeling equal in the outdoors
  • Inequality of awards in major, global sporting events
  • Under representation in key sports for women, in major sporting events



Equal pay for equal pay

Here’s another to add to the list. It’s not the first time that equality has been front of mind for women in sport. Just last year, the women of the US soccer team took it upon themselves to kick a lawsuit towards US soccer. With a killer advertising campaign, they fought hard to raise awareness for equal pay for women. After all, it is the same 90 minutes they play right? Women’s soccer is $20M in revenue, more popular than the men’s, but yet the men are still paid four times as much. Many of the US women’s team are paid below the poverty line. These are the same women that have won 3 world cups and 4 Olympic gold medals.

The mind boggles…


Read: Time For Change – The US team goalie’s post on the subject


She believes US soccer team

Chose to make a positive impact

With all things in life, you can choose to add positively to a situation or detract from it. The same goes for advertising, managing your marketing budget and coming up with ideas. You can be part of the problem or part of the solution. And when there are so many strong case studies that suggest being part of the solution will yield positive sales, reach and conversion results for sporting brands that feature REAL women or athletes over models; it really shouldn’t be hard to convince the cheque writer that authentic stories, relatable content and informed insightful creative will shift sales. I bet you’ll sleep better at night too. Plus, the models have enough to do.


Please share this article if you too want to see sportswear brands use real athletes and not models in their advertising campaigns. Go a step further and tag a brand you want to see change. If you are a female athlete, keep doing your thing. Change is going to come :-)


Hiya, I'm Alexa. Always on some sort of adventure! I'm excited to share my stories & introduce you to other rad women, also living the dream. I'm here to inspire you to do the same :-)


  1. Hi there.
    Just wanted to say hi. I came over for a look after seeing you in the SunGod email. I also promote them but obviously not as well as you :) And yeah, couldn’t agree more. I’m 51, and I’d LOVE to see some sports wear that works for older women. Your body shape goes to all hell at menopause and I’m finding that women’s sports gear just doesn’t fit like it did. I still run, slowly, and I do a lot of trekking, we’re off to Everest again soon, K2 next year, but finding gear for middle aged women once everything sags and your waist disappears….ugg. So lets see some real OLDER women too because we don’t all curl up and die at 50!

    • OMG yes! Thak you so much for coming to Still Stoke to check it out and read this article. I hear you girl. A good friend of mine wrote a great post on this that is very witty and worth a read, I think you will enjoy it:

      I’m not sure where you are based but check out Pure Snow, they make some great fitting gear I ride in their stuff and it’s super loose and comfy. I’m a 90s snowboard girl at heart, no tight clothes for me!

      All the best and thanks again for reading x

  2. The truly sad thing is that sportswear companies would rather capitalize on The current trend of street wear, than focus on actual athletes wearing their clothing. Probably because designing those clothes requires less reinforced stitching and lighter materials. Less durable clothing is cheaper to make.

    Want to hear a bit of a head scratcher, surfer Coco Ho was actually involved in the collaboration between Ms Jagger and Volcom, but where is her credit? If you notice, in quite a few interviews that Jade has done, she mentions Coco or Coco is shown in the editorial photos. Apparently Coco taught Jade how to surf. Why didn’t volcom just hire Coco Ho?

  3. Would you mind pointing me in the direction of these case studies you referenced? “And when there are so many strong case studies that suggest being part of the solution will yield positive sales, reach and conversion results for sporting brands that feature REAL women or athletes over models.”

    • Hey Darrah,

      No not at all. The case studies are already listed in this article (This Girl Can, Like A Girl etc) but here are links to more detail and campaign write ups with more results. The ones listed below all won Cannes Lions so they award write ups are also worth a read.

      This Girl Can:
      This Girl Can Case Study Video:

      Always Like A Girl:

      This is a scholarly article based on Nike’s incredibly successful campaign ‘If You Let Me Play’. It shows more of the cultural impact that direct results:

      Results from REI #ForceOfNature are not released yet (uptake in participation, sales, grants given to women, retailers also pledging to stock more variety of women’s clothing etc), but you can see the engagement on the content and a quick Google search shows over 2,000 write ups specifically on “REI Force Of Nature”.

      Hope that gives you a bit more background.

      There are links within the article already if you want to read more about the women’s soccer team and how they managed to shift the representation of a whole sport in the US with their campaign.

      Thanks for reading,


  4. Great, rightfully pointed article. As a dad with a 14YO and 17YO sporty, active daughters it especially resonated. Any chance you could add a Linked In option in the article’s social media share section as it’d be great to get it out to marketers etc?

    • Thanks for reading Ben and thank you for your kind, encouraging words. I’ll add a LinkedIn share option now. It can be very easy to lose your moral compass working in advertising. I’d be most grateful if you shared it with your community. The more discussion in this space the better! Thanks again. Alexa


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