Sport England, in my opinion, is ticking all the boxes with their latest marketing campaign ‘This Girl Can’.


Tell a story? Check.
Create something different? Check.
Connect with the audience? Check.
Go viral? Check.


The national promotional campaign looks to encourage females across the UK to get active through an honest, relatable and motivational TV ad (supported by poster advertisements, a social campaign and online content). The strategy behind the creative was inspired by the shocking statistic that whilst 75% of females are keen to do more sport, they are often held back by the fear of being judged on poor performance, shamed by the way they look whilst exercising or being perceived as over competitive. The goal of this campaign was to “liberate women from this fear”.



FCB Inferno (in collaboration with production company, Somesuch) produced a 90 second TV ad and described the campaign as “a celebration of active women designed to make the attainable aspirational”. The audience, those women with the desire to exercise but intimidated by the prospect, clearly agree. The ad generated almost 1 million views on Facebook in less than 24 hours and #thisgirlcan trended at number 2 on Twitter.


Sport England made a statement by refusing to sit the same box as glamourised sport brands such as Fabletics, instead using ‘real women’, flaws and all (a tip of the hat to Dove there). Cellulite replaces six-packs and sweaty faces replace perfect complexions. The organisation have presented their target group with material they can actually relate to as well as an ad that legitimately stands out from the crowd – an indication that the brand ‘gets their audience’, a value that we believe to be at the core of any great marketing campaign here at Hello Starling.


‘This Girl Can’ has even got the backing of Clare Balding, one of the UK’s most renowned sport presenters: “This ad is trying to reach women who have felt for whatever reason that exercise or sport is not for them, that it’s an exclusive club they can’t join.” Well said, Balding.


Whilst, of course, the message behind the campaign is inspirational, it’s this refreshing delivery that impresses me most. The pace of the ad emulates the sensations of a real workout, including a tense break in the music (filled with heavy breathing) accompanied by close-ups of exhausted faces as the athletes hit their ‘wall’, followed by an adrenaline fuelled final sprint, backed by a fast-paced beat, and clips of women determinedly racing towards their respective finish lines.


The ‘thought bubbles’ presented through the ad with provocative statements such as “Sweating like a pig, looking like a fox” reflect the empowering and upfront theme. The energetic soundtrack (Missy Elliott’s ‘Get Ur Freak On’) sets the dynamic pace of the ad.


In sum, I agree with Balding. The fact it’s taken so long for some crafty marketing team to put realism at the heart of a sport advertisement astounds me. I’m certainly glad Sport England have taken that leap however, and look forward to seeing whether this will influence the marketing approach of other sport brands.


By Angharad Edwards