Female Athletes . . . a Footnote in Olympic Promotion

I woke this morning to this story in the USA Today: Team USA Uniforms: Controversial choice? The article discussed the fact that the women’s uniform apparently had no pants and that the uniform was made in China and not the U.S.

To me however, the real offense is the placement and depiction of the female athlete in the uniforms official promotional photo (above).  Notice, there is only ONE female to the 3 men. She is placed on a podium that puts her substantiallly lower than the men. She is so out of place, so not part of the photo, you almost have to work your eyes to incorporate her into the scene. Her placement in the scene is awkward, and clumsy. She’s on the end like an afterthought or footnote.  It’s almost as if someone said “Oh Shit! we forgot a chick.”

What’s more disconcerting to me, is the Olympics is one of the few stages where female athletes can actually compete with men for fame and  recognition. With traditional male dominated sports, football, soccer, baseball, hockey, and basketball monopolizing the airwaves in non Olympic years, the Olympics give women like Missy Franklin, Kerri Walsh and Misty Mae Treanor, LoLo Jones and more the exposure they don’t get the 3 1/2 years the Olympics aren’t in town. U.S. Woman are as big a part of the U.S. Olympic experience as the men if NOT bigger. Yet, you wouldn’t know it by this picture.

If you believe in subliminal messages and the power of the psyche, which I do. This picture sends a terrible message to the girls in our country.  It screams “insignificant.”  As the father of 3 girls I find myself constantly combating messages that certain things are for girls and others are for boys. Despite my dedicated efforts to indoctrinate my daughters with the message they can do anything they want and that there is no such thing as “boys” stuff and “girls” stuff, they have still drawn a line and compartmentalize between what are “boys” toys and activities and what are “girl” toys and activities.

I’m convinced it is because of the messages we send.  Messages like the one in the picture above. What does this picture say about the Olympic female athlete?

My test?

If you were to show this picture to a sociology class 400 years from now and ask them to describe what the American culture was like during the time period, what would they say?

Marketing and sales is about influencing our decisions. Obviously, I’m a huge marketing and sales fan. Sometimes however, we lose site of the messages we are sending and when that happens the fallout can be devastating.

Ralph Lauren, USOC, come on, you can represent our female athletes better than this!


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