Thanks in part to old-fashioned misogyny, female athletes are often undervalued and underpaid in sport. So when I watched a now-viral football ad end in a surprising way that challenged those deep-rooted misconceptions, I was all for it.
The two-minute ad, created by the French division of telecommunications company Orange and marketing agency Marcel, was launched ahead of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and uses the power of video editing to challenge those thoughts. It begins with a summary of what appears to be the France men’s football team performing some truly impressive feats: dazzling displays of footwork, incredible aerial finishing and lightning-fast sprints across the pitch. Dramatic music plays in the background, commentators enthusiastically recount the scenes, and crowds of fans erupt in cheers. Halfway through, the screen turns black and a text appears: “Only Les Bleus [the men’s national team in France] can give us these emotions.
Then, the plot twist. On-screen text reveals players were not the men’s team – the video rewinds to show that all of this footage was actually from women’s games. Using advanced editing techniques, the women’s faces and names on their shirts were replaced with those of the men. side-by-side comparisons show the genuine footage against the fake clips. All those amazing plays you just watched? They were performed by female athletes.
The ad ends with the text: « At Orange, we support the Blues. » Next, an editing tool enters the frame to perform a small but important modification: it adds in a e until the last word to spell Bluees—to signify the French women’s team. (You can view an English version of the video on YouTube here.)
On social media, viewers expressed their admiration for the ad. « They’ve done an amazing job of exposing the biases that exist around male and female athletes, » said Twitter user @Brilewerke writing. « I got a little watery eyed watching this, » said Reddit user @Korean.
By emphasizing the fact that women’s football can be just as exciting as men’s – and that the athletes are just as talented, athletic and able to provoke an emotional reaction from fans – advertising undermines the idea that women’s sports are not as entertaining or fun to watch, which is commonly used as justification why female athletes are often not paid as much as their male counterparts.
Lately, however, there has been progress in the right direction, especially in professional football. After a six-year battle, the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) won a $24 million settlement in 2022 from the United States Soccer Federation, plus a commitment that the organization will pay the men’s and women’s national teams equally in competitions. Also encouraging: more people are interested in women’s sports than ever before. The 2019 Women’s World Cup, for example, drew a record 1.12 billion viewers, according to fifa. And the upcoming 2023 Women’s World Cup is on track to be the highest-attended standalone women’s sporting event in history, with over a million tickets sold last month. by FIFA.
Yet there is still work to be done to dismantle gender bias in sport. Researchers from a recent study Posted in Sport Management Review found that internet users rated videos of elite male footballers higher than those of women, because Time reported. However, when the players’ genders were obscured, they rated both groups equally.
“Whether it’s revenue, investment or coverage, men’s sports are doing better than women’s sports. Many assume that absolute differences in the quality of athletic performance are the driving force,” the authors wrote in the study. « However, the existence of stereotypes should alert us to another possibility: gender information could influence perceived quality. »
The release of the announcement couldn’t have come at a better time: with the Women’s World Cup kicking off this week in Australia and New Zealand, there will be plenty of opportunities to see just how wrong these gender biases are and how truly exciting women’s sport can be.