Ben Robinson

Sport is no longer just a man’s game

The latest inspirational advert from the challengers to Nike and Adidas’s sporting crowns has left the starting blocks with a splash.

A new 60 second spot for Under Armour’s #WeWill campaign features Syrian Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini and a powerful tale of overcoming the most extreme challenges. Yusra competed as part of the Refugee Olympic Team at the 2016 Rio Olympics, having left her family and home in war-torn Syria just a year prior.

The Under Armour ad picks up the inspirational story as part of a wider campaign that also supported the relief efforts of first responders after the devastating Hurricane Harvey. The underlying message is that “sports can inspire, unite, and even change the world.

An ambitious message, perhaps, but time and again sport proves to be a fantastic way to promote international unity and tell stories of challenging lives overcoming adversity. Events such as the Olympic Games and the FIFA Wold Cup truly do bring billions of people together and allow for inspiring tales to be told.

This year, we are also hearing some tales that until recently were less commonly told in the sporting arena. Finally it seems, there is a genuine shift in focus to bring women in to the picture. Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign has been hugely successful in getting more women more active in the UK since it’s launch in 2015.

However, the most emphatic new voices are coming from the Middle East. Yusra’s story follows on from Nike’s move to launch an athletic hijab after seeing Sarah Attar sprinting for Saudi Arabia at the London 2010 Olympics. Due for release in Spring 2018, the hijab line was announced with an epic ad showing Middle Eastern women playing their sport and looking seriously cool doing it. Finally, sport is no longer just for men.

With changing attitudes in the Middle East, as well as an acknowledged need to get everyone – but especially women – more active in the region, these are timely and well-produced campaigns. Working to encourage activity, they may also work to encourage unity, as more campaigns launch in the build up to the Qatar 2022 World Cup will finally give the Middle East some international sporting credentials to get behind and help open up a region that is alien and misunderstood by many – athletically or otherwise.

It seems that maybe sport does have the power to change the world. No longer just for men. No longer just a game.

 

 

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