Yesterday I was in London, and it was difficult to miss the bright yellow adverts from Protein World around the city. I was so busy concentrating on getting the right tube they disappeared into the rest of the advertising clutter for me, so it wasn’t until I settled with my coffee this morning to catch up with Twitter that I saw the backlash and the company’s terrible response to them.
I find it difficult being involved in health and fitness whilst also promoting body positivity. I firmly believe that you should be proud of what your body can DO and the non-aesthetic targets you’ve hit; however, working out and eating well also changes how your body looks, and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t something I cared about, even if it isn’t my primary concern. The fitness industry thrives by target our worries about our looks – I doubt that as much protein powder would be sold or gyms have as many members if they focused their advertising on how much better you will feel as opposed to how good you might look.
As someone interested in both fitness and marketing, I’m fascinated about where this is going. The general public question everything now and feel like they can respond and have their voices heard, whether that be by social media or adding graffiti to posters. Many industries have moved on and realised that customers now TELL brands and businesses what they want, as opposed to the brand doing what they THINK the customers want. Fitness has yet to catch up with this, I feel; the industry’s marketing techniques are homogenised and target people’s insecurities, and brands are scared to step outside of this tried-and-tested method because it’s worked for so long.
There are exceptions to the rule, of course. Think what you like about the sport: in CrossFit bodies are an afterthought, with progression, strength and supporting your peers being the main goals. The This Girl Can campaign empowered women by promoting activity for everyone, no matter what you look like, and the recent Holland & Barrett protein TV campaign tells us why protein benefits how our bodies function rather than look. And this may be predictable but I can’t not bring Nike into this – they’re selling clothes and trainers, yes (everyone is selling something!), but their past few women’s campaigns have been focused on being the best version of YOU possible rather than striving for unattainable bodies.
Whether the fitness industry likes it or not, things are changing. We as customers know what we want. We want to be proud of our bodies, however they look, and don’t want to be told we shouldn’t be. We have voices, and we’re not afraid to use them.
Main image from BuzzFeed.