Advertising to the Modern Female Athlete
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This two-part study examined portrayals of women in social media posts (Instagram) from four top athletic apparel companies: Nike, Reebok, Lululemon and Jolyn. Interviews were conducted with gatekeepers – decision makers – who place the models who appear in these posts and ads to gauge the evolution of the portrayal of women in athletic clothing ads; and three diverse focus groups of female college athletes (synchronized swimming, basketball and golf) were conducted to measure their attitudes about how women were portrayed in the ads – specifically whether the portrayals objectified women. The gatekeepers both reported an evolution from the athletic wear ads featuring thin, traditional models in the 1990s to showcasing more athletic women, in more athletic poses, today. A structured sample of the seven most recent posts from each brand was collected and focus group participants were asked their opinions of the brands before and after exposure to the posts. Responses diverged between the various teams, with the golfers finding the posts the least objectifying and the basketball players reporting the most objectification. Discussion includes implications going forward for companies intending to advertise to the modern female athlete.