Women’s Health and Fitness Marketing Campaigns: The good, the bad & the utterly outrageous!

By January 19, 2017 Stories

Here at KC, we keep up to date with all the weird and wonderful awareness days that get pushed out across social media; from National Popcorn Day to Dementia Awareness Week, they really are in abundance.

So today it’s National Women’s Healthy Weight Day… yep, that’s right! It is unequivocally an occasion for female empowerment and a chance to fight back against the shallow stereotypes and body shaming that we so often see in the media.

With this in mind, we thought we’d take a look at some of our favourite marketing campaigns for female health & fitness, as well as some of those that weren’t so well received!

First up, who could forget, the ad campaign from Protein World that sparked widespread controversy back in Summer 2015. Daily commuters piled into tube stations across London to be faced with a huge, garish yellow billboard displaying a toned, bikini-clad blonde asking ‘Are you beach body ready?’.


The campaign received accusations of body shaming and sexism and a petition received over 70,000 signatures before it was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). It was also dubbed the worst campaign of 2015 by Campaign Magazine!

Now you’d think that they would’ve learnt their lesson over at Protein World, but just a few months later they were back with a ‘New Year, New You’ campaign that looked more like a music video with girls in skimpy bikinis dancing on the beach.

Once again the campaign caused an uproar, with many claiming that they don’t want to be shamed but rather inspired by something that is actually achievable! Unfortunately, it isn’t every women’s ambition to successfully ‘crab walk’ across the beach in a white bikini, so it’s a massive thumbs down from us Protein World!

THIS GIRL CANLooking at successful and inspirational campaigns, one of our favourites has to be Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign. The campaign is based on addressing the main reason why women are holding back from participating in sports: the fear of judgement by others.

No matter what your shape, size or level of fitness, so many of us have ‘the fear’ when we join a new gym class or take up a new sport. ‘The fear’ covers all kinds of concerns from appearance to ability. This Girl Can tackles this head on!

The campaign launched in January 2015 and the 90-second video had been viewed over 37 million times in just over a year and Sport England reported that 1.6 million women who had recognised the campaign had begun exercising.  Its success is a powerful reminder to the health and fitness industry that perfection doesn’t sell!!

NIKE CAMPAIGNOn a similar theme to the This Girl Can campaign, Nike released a campaign in April last year that provided a fantastic insight into the internal battles we all experience when doing a tough workout! The Better For It campaign showed women taking part in various sports while voicing their unenthusiastic thoughts.

The series of videos highlight the self-doubt and inner rants that so many women experience when working out but aims to tackle that self-doubt by encouraging women of all abilities to take on new physical challenges. Though the ladies in the videos all look extremely athletic and wouldn’t look out of place running a marathon, the very clever, relatable campaign shows the real struggles that all women face when they workout which comfortingly lets us know that we are not alone! Struggle on ladies – we can do it!

Equinox Gym, a luxury fitness chain in the US, received criticism over their ad campaign which was shot by Terry Richardson (who has also worked with Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford and Yves Saint Laurent!!!!).  So it comes as little surprise that this high-fashion style is overtly sexual with plenty of slender, half-clothed women. So what does this say about fitness? Well, very little really! And there opened the flood gates of criticism, not only over the size of the models but also the degradation of women.EQUINOX

But all was not lost with Equinox! This year they have unveiled a powerful new campaign ‘Commit to Something’, this time shot by Steven Klein (think Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton & Alexander McQueen). The campaign creates a notion that committing to something shapes who you are; not just your health and fitness but in all of life’s endeavours. And so enter Samantha Paige, a cancer survivor who exposes her bare chest and mastectomy scars.

Once again we might question what on earth this has to do with a gym or women’s fitness, but Carlos Becil, Chief Marketing Officer at Equinox stated “”We’re in the business of changing lives at Equinox, so we’ve learned first-hand that going ‘all in’ on anything — whether it be a workout, a cause or yourself — will undoubtedly get you one step closer to finding out who you really are.” Well, at least it’s not more scantily dressed, frighteningly skinny women with red lips & come hither eyes!FITNESS FIRST

So to finish up, we promised something utterly outrageous. The kind of campaign that makes you wonder who on earth approved it and how much money must they have wasted! Back in 2009, FitnessFirst turned a Dutch bus stop into giant scales… you sit on the seat and your weight flashes up in giant numbers on the bus shelter! As I’m sure you can imagine, the campaign didn’t take off!

With all the weird and wonderful campaigns out there trying to encourage women to get fit and healthy, it’s fantastic to see a shift towards more inclusive campaigns that instead of idealising the ‘perfect’ (more often than not unachievable) result, the focus is on real women and their realistic goals!