#ThisGirlCan: The inspiring advert is back and it's going to get you moving
Sport England's mega-successful This Girl Can campaign motivated millions of women to fall in love with fitness back in 2015 – can it do the same again? Fresh from the official launch, Abi Jackson reports.
When the original This Girl Can ads first aired in early 2015, I know I wasn't the only one whose ears – and an all-too-often suppressed corner of my soul – pricked up, as soon as the gloriously goading beat of Missy Elliott's Get Ur Freak On started up.
Here was a bunch of real, normal women – and by that I mean they were just themselves; their shape, their size, their age, their colour, their ability and fitness level – claiming their space in the sports field/gym/dance studio/swimming pool/cycle lanes; sweating, wobbling, huffing and puffing away in the process, and loving it.
It was Sport England's bid to tackle the massive gap between the number of men and women engaging with sports and physical activity. They'd done their research and found most women did want to be more active, but often fear of judgement got in the way.
The campaign's now back for phase two, and if you loved it first time round, rest assured you're in for an even bigger treat – as it's once again bang on, and perfectly timed.
While Missy Elliott made us instantly want to push the sofa to the wall and get our groove on, this time it's the late poet Maya Angelou whose voice provides the soundtrack. And it really is her actual voice – Sport England managed to get permission to use a recording of Angelou reciting Phenomenal Woman – and the result is stunning.
Still fierce, but with a powerful softness.
‘Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size. But when I start to tell them, they think I'm telling lies…'
The new 90-second film went live online at noon on Friday, making its TV debut a little later. I'd already noticed a few new #ThisGirlCan posters popping up in train stations, days before official emails announcing the reboot began landing in my inbox – instantly sparking a flurry of mental fist-pumps.
My own fitness mojo is wallowing in the gutter at the moment. After months of effort clocking up miles on my bike, a stubborn back injury's now got me clamped at the start line. And it's not just my hard-earned quads that have dissolved week after inactive week, but my confidence, my endorphin-fuelled stress filter, my stock of ‘things to look forward to' that helps you glide through the week.
I know I'll be back in the saddle eventually, and that's how it goes with exercise, right? Peaks and troughs; you have a good stint of being really ‘good' with it, then something happens – be it an injury, a demanding phase at work, your priorities shift to other things, you get sick, get lazy, get bored, move house, have a baby – and before you know it, getting back in your leggings and trainers suddenly feels a bit freakin' scary.
It's certainly something most women I know can relate to – and it's a big part of the thinking behind the #ThisGirlCan reboot.
As Sport England CEO Jennie Price explains: “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. No-one is saying this to us. Few magazines say it; sports brands don't say it.”
This is part of the reason it decided to feature pregnant women and new mums in the new campaign material (there's Stephanie using baby Olivia as a dumb-bell at a Mumhood fitness class, and Franny riding her bike while pregnant with twins), a period in women's lives where there's often a massive drop-off in engagement with sport and exercise.
There are also women who've discovered – or rediscovered – passions for fitness after low body confidence kept them away, and they've expanded the age-range of women featured, from 15-year-old trampolinist Cerys to 69-year-old swimmer Sue.
Of course, back in 2015, the campaign received its share of criticism, with some claiming it was patronising to imply women aren't ‘very good' at exercise, or even offensive to imply that they, and their ‘jiggly bits', need this push.
They're missing the point. Pay attention, and you'll notice many of the women in the campaign ARE very fit and ‘good' at their chosen pursuits. And some aren't – but they're still having a great time and reaping the rewards.
Bottom line, the response to #ThisGirlCan has been overwhelmingly positive. Phenomenal, in fact – after launching the campaign quickly went viral, 13 million people have now viewed the flagship film online, not a single day's gone by since January 2015 that somebody hasn't referenced #ThisGirlCan on social media (including Christmas Day; seriously, has any other campaign achieved that?), and research suggests around 2.8 million women have become more active as a result.
Now let's watch that number soar, ladies.