A little sex with your soccer then?

22 Mar

For those of us on the Island who are out of the loop, Vancouver Whitecaps’ hotly debated new ad campaign launched in Vancouver this month.

Examine the centre-piece below, a promotional video which shows a woman’s body being painted in extreme close-up, so that you are hard-pressed to say which part of her body you are looking at.

Look past the glossy-lipped come-hither expression, and you will notice she has been painted head to toe in Whitecaps’ colours!

Initial interest is high with 339,000 views on YouTube.

Crazy numbers. And judging by online buzz, it has attracted and repelled people in equal measure.

Even blogs are going nuts with the issue.  Vancouver Observer writer Jarrah Hodge opinions that women struggle to escape being typecast as sex objects, while men are lauded as athletes.

Bell Canada, a premier sponsor of the Whitecaps has expressed their exasperation with the approach and have concluded it “overstepped the bounds.”

In the words of Kim Jackman, however, who is the Director of Marketing for the Whitecaps (and a woman), the ad is depicting the tradition of body-painting enjoyed by soccer fans. She sought clearance and guidelines from the female members of the Whitecaps staff before running the spot.

Surprisingly, male fans love it!

But is there a place for T&A in promoting the world’s favourite game?

Yes or no?


21 Responses to “A little sex with your soccer then?”

  1. Renée March 22, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

    A place has been made for it, but it gives me reason to sigh and roll my eyes. Can’t the Ideas people do better than that?

    Guess it’s all about the majority of the target audience.

  2. Bertha March 22, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

    Always room for T&A when promoting sport, but this ad didn’t leave me warm and fuzzy.

    I enjoyed the painting bit (even though it was slow), but in my opinion, her ‘sexy’ photo shoot at the end doesn’t work with the music or the lead up.

    Not a fan.

  3. dougbrowncreative March 22, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    > The best advertising always delivers to its target market, true enough. The advertisers are smart enough to know they might tweak some noses, but they took a calculated risk. Good to hear from you Renee!

    > It’s good to see your examination of the execution itself Bertha, rather than simply a nod to either side of the fence.

  4. maureen blaseckie March 22, 2011 at 9:42 pm #

    I must admit, I’d much rather see an attractive female model portraying the tradition of sports fan body painting, especially when I consider what most of the men who engage in it look like…And, let’s face it, if it was a buff, athletic male model being painted, it would bring the male fans uncomfortably close to confronting the homoeroticism inherent in most sports.

    The only thing I found offensive, oddly enough, is the point that the marketing director, Kim Jackman, is female and she canvassed female staff as if that in some way justifies the campaign or, at least elevates it above the charge of sexism. It falls into the “some of my best friends are [insert ethnic minority here] and he/she likes it too”…school of reasoning. It could have been designed by nuns in a cloister and it would not be any less an exploitation of the male’s automatic acquisitive response to the sight of an attractive female form.

    You are right, Doug, it doesn’t leave much to the imagination, nor does it show any. Also, it discounts the fact there are many women fans of soccer and this sort of thing does little to appeal to an expansion in that market. It is a quick solution for the need to get bums into the seats. It don’t got game, however, and that is the only way to keep them there.

  5. Dale Baglo March 22, 2011 at 11:01 pm #

    I saw this on the Vancouver Sun page a few days ago and my first thought (which escaped all the people commenting there) was that this is just the tradition of painting oneself in team colours, but with the slight exaggeration that is often the hallmark of attention-getting advertising. It didn’t dawn on me to think the “model” was anything but an ardent fan. I also don’t get offended (nor aroused) by nudes painted by the great masters of the Renaissance. Although Michelangelo’s “David” does creep me out a bit.

  6. Monica Rossa March 23, 2011 at 12:33 am #

    I think there is both a time and a place for a woman to explore her sexuality. It’s innately natural to want to be ‘sexy’. However, when advertising the Women’s Whitecaps team -depicting a woman off the field as a sex object isn’t the way to promote her athletic ability. Sure she has a ‘bangin’ bod from her training but this promotional video does nothing to bulldoze the stereotypes imposed on women’s sports by our culture and that’s a little disappointing. I would have liked to have seen a little more creativity. I think there is a better way to garner attention for the team but not at the expense of the ability of the female players. I challenge the promotional team to come up with something that bulldozes this barrier between the woman as something sexual and the woman as an athlete. Let her compete with the other athletes regardless of sex. Don’t cast her off as an image.

  7. dougbrowncreative March 23, 2011 at 5:42 am #

    These are some terrific comments.

    > Moe, as always your comment makes me rethink the subject. It sure would not be the same spot if the body being painted belonged to a big-breasted 46-year old male! But I begin to smell the beginnings of a true campaign in the making. If there had been a series of videos, each with remarkably different bodies, including a very old person, with the summary line being: “We’re all Whitecaps fans” or “The Whitecaps are Everyone’s Team” then this one might have found a perfect, less contentious, place.

    You’re such a great writer Moe – your comment made me wish you had written the post!

    > Dale – a man’s point of view! Holy crap. My guess is your mindset on this pretty much mirrored someone else’s at the Whitecaps end of things along the way, and they are similarly wondering what all the fuss is about. Getting a chance to read comments on blogs like this could be very illuminating for the agency that came up with the work and the team at Whitecaps who approved it. And you actually made me guffaw with the final line in your comment, and that doesn’t happen very often. Thanks for that and your POV.

    > Monica, I think your comment really hits at the heart of the issue, and good on you for the measured and considerate tone of it. It would be easy to lose yourself in an emotional reaction and have a go at the advertiser. The fact that you recognize the strategy that led the Whitecaps down this path and challenge them to do better is what makes the difference between a community-based blog and something like Yahoo or YouTube. I hope the Whitecaps marketing team gets a chance to read this comment.

    Thank you very much all for taking the time to deepen this conversation.

  8. Sue March 23, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    If they were trying for T&A, they didn’t really show enough – and it wasn’t jazzy enough – to build any adrenaline. That’s sort of the whole problem I have with this ad. Did it make me feel like games were going to be exciting, full of comraderie in the stands and great action on the field? No. It was sleepy.

    I think if you’re going to put a woman as a sex object in an advertisement (which obviously they’re doing) then don’t be apologetic about it. Just paint ‘er up and let her show a little life – posing with a soccer ball in a photography studio is just boring. Don’t try to make it like soft porn because the last thing I want to associate with a soccer team is soft-focus dreaminess.

  9. amyj March 23, 2011 at 9:54 am #

    What’s it say about me (female) that I think they could have taken the ad even further? I liked the ad in a way that I like watching other ads knowing they’re not targeted at me but happy to see someone speaking to the sexual connection of sport, youth, excitement or whatever it is that turns young boys cranks (not that they need any help with that at their young age).

    I’ve watched it several times now and am trying real hard to feel dis-included, dismissed or just plain dissed as a female and can’t do it.

  10. amyj March 23, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    Whoops. I’ve read through the attached story and some of the links and I’m hardening my stance in favour of this ad. I dislike immensely how the corporate sponsors are all straightening out their backs, pulling at their lapels and mounting their high horse.

    Sex and sports, aye? Whoda thunk it?

  11. dougbrowncreative March 23, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    It’s always interesting to consider how much further an idea can go. Both Sue and Amy are suggesting the Whitecaps didn’t push this particular ship far enough out to sea. My guess is that Kim’s canvassing of her female staff kept it a little closer to shore. The anti-ad brigade, well-represented in the comments here, would have had even more reason to take offense had the idea been prodded in the direction Amy and Sue suggest.

    But there you have it in a nutshell folks: You cannot please everyone. And if you try to you will please absolutely no one.

  12. Michael Tension March 23, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    I get the feeling this ad is getting more attention here then it is worthy of. Nothing new and really nothing very interesting. Definitely nothing new. I found it painful to watch the entire spot. Could have been 30 seconds at best. It was much more entertaining to read the comments, so thanks for that.

  13. dougbrowncreative March 23, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    Good point Michael. Like all good controversies, the opinions are what keep it alive.

    On the other hand (because there is always another hand), if you were a soccer mom of a teenage girl, which I don’t think you are, you might have a more strongly held view of the spot.

  14. Kat March 23, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    I didn’t take issue with it until they ended it with the sexy photo shoot like Bertha said. Ruined the whole thing. Ending this with the woman entering the stands like a hardcore fan with the cheers of the crowds in front of her would have sold it.

    As it stands this looks like one of those gross Maxim “behind the scenes” photoshoot videos. Not interesting, not relevant, and another excuse to take naked pictures of a hot girl.

  15. Terry Dee March 23, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    The only thing I find offensive with this ad, is that it’s strategically inept. There is no correlation between “There’s 10 days ’til kickoff”, the painting/reveal of girl, and “Where will you be?”. Nothing was addressed. No spirit was built. I had zero attachment to this woman and I had no extra desire to care for the WhiteCaps…and I’m a sports fanatic. Unless I’m missing something, it has zero in the way of concept and somehow missed even being able to utilize the gratuitous use of sex.

  16. dougbrowncreative March 23, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    > Hey Kathryn I like your ending. Great suggestion. That would make the spot.

    > I have to admit I struggled with the “Where will you be?” line too Terry, as my answer would probably be unprintable. This video was part of a larger tease campaign and it’s possible the relevance of the line and the “10 days” would be clearer with exposure to all the elements.

  17. Andrew Hall March 23, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    While the filming was excellent, this ad left me questioning the thought process as well. I’m not so concerned with the idea of using sex to sell soccer, but more the disconnect between the message and the product. Watching the spot objectively, you’re thinking modeling or the arts the whole way through. The surprise-it’s-actually-not-what-you-expected-all-along technique can work when done in a clever way, but instead this just left me scratching my head – it’s promoting the Men’s season opener, not the women’s, and to the best of my knowledge there are no Whitecaps cheerleaders. No connection!

    The video leaves me asking what message they’re trying to leave in the viewer’s head. I agree with others in that it seems there was a lot of work putting into a polished, well shot video that lacked any strategic marketing direction.

  18. dougbrowncreative March 24, 2011 at 5:27 am #

    Good points Andrew. As with my reply to Terry, it may be that the larger campaign filled in some of the gaps you mention. But taken in isolation, your points are on the mark. Thanks for making them.

  19. Andrew Hall March 24, 2011 at 8:38 am #

    I guess this speaks then to the fact that an ad in a campaign needs to be able to stand on its own (see the second Ad in the Knorr “Salty” series) in addition to tying in with the greater theme, because not every target is going to have seen the series.

  20. dougbrowncreative March 24, 2011 at 9:04 am #

    Yup. Sometimes effective campaigns use different media for different purposes. This is where the media planner becomes the most important, and powerful, person in the world. But every element needs to be able to stand alone and not rely on the others to be relevant.

  21. Terry Dee March 24, 2011 at 10:28 am #

    It’s also good when sex is at least demonstrative. I’ve seen some extremely provocative ads from Europe that are risque/graphic and would not fly in our media air/print waves…but they typically hammer a point home, and extremely effectively. Thinking creatively means exploring a variety of routes and options, but it is nice to have “that card” to play from time to time. It’s when it’s sex for the sake of sex that dilutes it’s impact.

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