This Girl Loves #thisgirlcan

Billboards like this one accompany the TV portion of the campaign. Image credit: Sport England

For me, visits abroad always include at least a few minutes in the hotel of the local television fare (even if I don’t speak the language—sometimes that’s even better). My visit to London last week came not too far behind the January 12 launch of Sport England’s already-viral “This Girl Can” campaign, designed to both celebrate women being athletic as well as to encourage them to be so more often, regardless of whether they look like any other ad campaign might portray them. Because I’m a woefully out-of-touch American, this was the first I’d seen it, so for those of you who already have, forgive me for the late sharing.

My first reaction, before I even knew what it was, was an internal cheer of solidarity to the opening shot, as we see the rear view of a woman who no doubt has been discouraged from wearing a two-piece swimsuit. She adjusts her bottoms in a defiant snap.

I jiggle, therefore I am, the spot later echoes.

I’m not an especially large woman, but I’m also never going to look like a Danskin ad in ballet class, much to my teenage self’s chagrin, nor a Lululemon ad in a yoga class, which my adult self is quite OK with. And that’s what this campaign reinforced. Real athleticism doesn’t look like the photos in the gym brochure. (Except when it does, that every once in a while, and that’s OK, too. Somebody has to be in those other ads.) Every body has the potential to be an athlete’s body.

It reminded me of another project I saw recently, where SmugMug took the opportunity of decorating the company gym to prove that anyone can look like those perfectly sleek athletes—with the right lighting and photographer, of course.

Sport England launched their campaign based on researched that showed 75% of women aged 14-40 would exercise more but held back for fear of what others thought of them. Let’s put that more bluntly. A solid 3/4 of women surveyed chose to negatively impact their health because somebody thought they might look a bit chubby in their yoga pants.

Similar to SmugMug’s internal project, the women featured in the spot are street-cast, not actresses, simply doing the sports that they enjoy doing, montaged to the beat of Missy Elliott. (Read more about the production of the spot at

The Guardian had a quite different response to the ad, though. I’m not going to link to that story, but I will share this excellent response to it for those who didn’t find the Sport England spot encouraging.

The bottom line is a spot that tells the important story: Fitness isn’t just for the already-fit. It’s for the will-be-fit and once-were-fit and would-like-to-be-fit and the dammit-I’m-going-to-try-this-one-more-time-anyway.