“Sex sells!” Not according to this article by espnW, called Sex sells? Trend may be changing.

Does sex really sell now? How do we know for sure? What if I told you it doesn’t?

What if I told you there is research to the contrary? As in, research showing that consumers, when deciding whether to buy a sports-related product, respond more to advertisements that portray female athletes as — get this — athletes.

ESPN recently aired a documentary called Nine for IX: Branded. You can purchase it on iTunes here. You can read more about the filmmakers here. Nine for IX are a series of documentaries focusing on captivating stories of women in sports told through the lens of female filmmakers. Here is the description for BRANDED:

Will female athletes ever gain an equal footing with their male counterparts, or will sex appeal always override achievement? The question is explored in the Nine for IX film “Branded,” but there are recent trends that suggest the answer will soon be a resounding “yes.”


Let’s look at some ads featuring women using two of the biggest names in the female sports advertisement game: Nike and Reebok.

One of the biggest producers of female athletes in empowering ads is Nike. Everything about these ads screams “powerful and capable athlete” and goes along with their brand “Just Do It.” In Nike’s “Make Yourself” campaign, they have a positive message for women. I found an interesting analysis of the visuals in this article online.


The message Nike is trying to express is that women have the power to “make themselves” into whatever they want to be, whether that is healthy or strong or beautiful, women have the control to become the best they can possibly be.

A few of the images from their Facebook page

A few of the images from their Facebook page

Another advertisement campaign focused on several body parts that women often feel self-conscious about: butt, thighs, shoulders, etc. Then it reclaims them. For example in this one it says [My thighs] are strong . . . and though they are unwelcome in the petite section, they are cheered on in marathons. You can see more of the ads in this article. Bravo, Nike.

Nike's women's ads focusing on individual body parts

Nike’s women’s ads focusing on individual body parts

Compare that with Reebok’s ad below:



These show very similar images, but one sells a much more superficial image. You have a woman with great legs who is in running shoes and her underwear. It’s a confusing image for me. They are not selling an athlete, nor a woman who runs. They’re selling her legs and her body. They do it consistently:

Reebok doesn't give a shit about you

Again with the damned underwear! And by the way, Reebok is totally lying to you with those ads! In fact, they lied so much that they had to give refunds! Reebok is selling a “hot body” whereas Nike is empowering women. One makes me want to go running and get to the gym. The other makes me want to stab my computer and then commit seppuku. One honors women, another panders to that “instant gratification” desire.

Back to the article. The article is a great read. Here are a few blurbs from it.

…each time a female athlete is pictured in a sexualized way, it diminishes the perception of her athletic ability

…This perception is true for men, too: When you see a sexualized picture of a male athlete, say David Beckham modeling underwear or Tom Brady wearing Uggs, your subconscious tends to put a little black mark next to his athletic endeavors.

…the real damage has been done on the women’s side, because nearly all of our popular, mainstream representations of female athletes play up their off-the-field appeal, with performance taking a backseat.

…just think of the negative effects these marketing images have had on how we, as a society, view women’s sports. It goes a long way toward explaining why a highly successful female athlete can often feel like Sisyphus, pushing the rock up the hill only to watch it roll back down — because the sports world is still mostly operating as if bikinis on soccer players and slinky dresses on tennis stars are where the money is.


This kind of information is important in jiu jitsu as well. When you have people who are attempting to sell their brand and image to women and think “Hey, I’ll prove that women can be athletic AND sexy” and then show just the sexy side, consider this:

I think soon the marketing executives and mainstream media need to realize how the next generation wants to see its female athletes. And that’s simply as athletes.”

…several studies have shown (for male and female athletes) there is no correlation between seeing a sexy image and then actually turning on the game to watch the player whose sexy image you have seen.

…Talent sells.

This is something Meg from Tangled Triangle pointed out in her comment on “The Object in the Ad”:

I’ll totally agree that it keeps eyes on the site longer, but I’m not 100% convinced that turns into more sales (attention and $ aren’t the same thing)…and even if it does, what’s the net effect when you factor in the people (men and women) it turns off?

Jiu Jiu’s Note: Which BJJ or MMA advertisements use TALENT and ATHLETICISM and SKILL to sell their products to women? These advertisements should feature WOMEN; they should be empowering and non-sexual (including no come-hither looks). Let’s focus on companies that have NOT used “sex sells” as a way to try to get your money; ones that sell woman as accomplished athletes. Please post images or links below. Note: please do NOT include brands that have sexy ad campaigns or that google reveals “sex sells” type ads.

Gear companies: You are welcome to post your advertisement campaigns/products here, but please include some conversational interaction, such as your vision or what your aim was with your ad – not just posting a picture as a comment.