Simon Allen

Selling Sexy Soccer in 2013

Created on 27 Feb., 2013 7:07 PM GMT

The bra that launched a league

I read an article from the Sporting News where the author said something like the 1999 USA Women's World Cup Team and Brandi Chastain's Bra launched the WUSA. Utter nonsense and it shows just how uneducated and bitter some sports writers are about soccer in America. Oddly enough Chastain's famous penalty kick in the '99 Women's World Cup didn't spiral her to fame but rather the image of her taking off her top.

Newsweek and Sports Illustrated chose the image of her celebrating in her sports bra as the cover photo rather than the entire team celebrating at the end of the match which Time Magazine chose as their front cover. Later Chastain showed even more skin in Gear magazine. Of course no amount of sexualization of the women's game could have saved WUSA. If you think about it, one cannot merely sexy-up a sport and think that doing that will get large numbers of folks interested in the sport for more than a small period of time.

Mary Jo Kane, director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sports at the University of Minnesota wrote in The Nation, “The widely held assumption that sexualizing female athletes is the most effective way to promote women’s sports creates cognitive dissonance. To begin with, marketing campaigns for leagues like the WNBA also emphasize the wholesome nature of women’s sports, highlighting the connection between fathers and daughters.

The underlying message is that women’s sports embrace traditional “family values” and that their appeal cuts across generational lines. Given this message, a “sex sells” strategy is counterproductive. How many fathers would accept the notion that support for their daughters’ sports participation would be increased by having them pose nude in Playboy? And should we buy the argument that what generates fan interest is how pretty athletes are versus how well they perform when a championship is on the line?” So Sex doesn't sell.

But don't tell that to websites like Kickette and Jezebel who's “Thighlights” section features photos of sportsmen doing sporty things that I guess women really like to see them do. Kickette has taken soccer into the TMZ style world of gossip with weekly photos of WAGs and topless Bundesliga players. I'm not sure if this promotes the game of soccer at all but looking at the number of people who check out the photos it's safe to assume that women like to look at action photos of Rugby players but don't really watch Rugby matches that often. No emails please.

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