This Girl Can: a 'powerful evolution', but more is needed to tackle unrealistic depictions of women

The latest iteration of Sport England's 'This Girl Can' campaign tackles some of the challenges women overcome to maintain an active lifestyle, but will it prove effective?

Sport England's 'This Girl Can' campaign tackles some of barriers that deter women from exercising regularly, covering topics ranging from menopause and support networks to disability and LGBT+ inclusion.

Over the past five years, Sport England claims the campaign has helped more than 500,000 women and girls become more active on a regular basis.

The aim for the latest phase of the campaign is to inspire 250,000 more women to do 150 minutes of physical activity every week.

It's an ambitious target, but comms professionals believe this campaign hits all the right notes.

PRWeek approached four women in comms to critique the campaign:

'Strength, power and a sense of "no limits"'

I'm a big fan of the new ad. As a busy working mum, I find many ambassadors and influencers representing brands supposedly targeting me are promoting aspirational, 'have it all' lifestyles that are totally out of reach. See Isabella Lowengrip – I'm following her through a work recommendation, but her posts make me feel angry. While I don't necessarily 'see' myself personally in this ad, as it's portraying a hugely diverse range of women going through all the big life stages in just 60 seconds, I feel empathy, as I've been through all but one myself. It conveys strength, power and a sense of 'no limits'. It definitely makes me want to get active – call to action achieved. I believe women are starting to disengage from influencers with fantasy lifestyles, seeking out those who are more in touch with real life. Brands and agencies will need to find more genuine advocates to win consumer minds.

Nicky Regazzoni, co-founder, The PR Network

'It's real, and I am here for it'

I bloody love this. It is a powerful evolution of the original goosebump-giving, ground-breaking campaign we still all talk about (and wish we came up with). It shows the strength of the genius but oh-so-simple creative line that is able to keep giving birth to such culturally relevant content. This is a lesson in how to use real women and their stories to create meaningful content, rather than shoving a load of influencers in an ad campaign (yep, M&S and Garnier, I am looking at you). Plus they've seamlessly joined the pro-period conversation, in a way that is unapologetic and really brings to life how much of a pain in the arse periods can be – without being preachy or dramatic. I mean, they show a tampon string in a way that doesn’t feel gratuitous or just included for shock value. It's real, from the way it's shot to the situations and messages they choose to include and the people in it, and I am here for it all day long.

Roxy Kalha, director, The Romans

'Brilliantly unfiltered yet uplifting reality'

I adore the 'This Girl Can' campaign and all that it stands for. Every thigh-jiggle is truth. Every boob-bounce is power. The latest instalment, featuring tampon strings, period cramps and postnatal mothers, is another brilliantly unfiltered yet uplifting reality of women getting active, but does it go far enough? It's been five years since the first incredible 'This Girl Can' campaign hit screens, but the rise of fitness influencers in that time has considerably worsened the landscape for female body confidence. Sport England's own research shows that 63 per cent of women who see slim, toned bodies on social media say this has a negative impact on them. Yet nothing is being done to keep the brands and creators behind this unrealistic content accountable. When the new advert hits screens this Friday I am confident that there will be a collective cheer from sofas across the UK and a surge of women and girls feeling empowered to take part in sports no matter their shape, size, ability or background. Yet for me, this rallying cry is just half the battle. These brilliant campaigns won't stop being needed until we stamp out the stereotypes and unrealistic depictions that continue to undermine female confidence in the beautiful normality of their own bodies. When it comes to real societal change, this is not a battle that can be won from the sidelines. It's time to get sweaty.

Charlotte Ryder, associate director, Good Relations

'An "in your face" feel'

The campaign is five years old now, going back to a time when I was still at school. As a young woman, I find the new video fresh, inspiring and motivating. Showing real, everyday women fitting in exercise with their normal routine is the best way to get women into sport. It's cool seeing professional athletes doing their thing and a lot of brands use them to promote sports, but this doesn't always do a good job at inspiring people to actually do it. I like how they tackled 'taboos' that prevent women from exercise like age, periods and motherhood, and it's good to see the inclusion of people of different orientations. The close-ups of the women’s sweaty faces, bellies, boobs and tampon strings gives the ad an 'in your face' feel and normalises them – not everyone is a 'well-toned, six-pack-having athlete'; the characters in this are relatable. One thing I would like to see them tackle is why people exercise – a kind of "exercising because I want to, not because I have to" narrative.

Caroline Akintunde, trainee, WX

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