Why Nike and Under Armour's latest campaigns are more than just ads
Like everybody else, there are days I want to flop on the couch, eat chips and read. Then there are days I want to wake at sunrise, hit the pavement, lift heavy, and spar. I am one or the other. I have no in-between. (Yes, I need to work on that)
The past few weeks though have been the latter. Something has clicked, I’ve been bit by the fitness bug again, most of all I’ve been inspired. My friends, my husband, and my teammates at Bazooka Kickboxing and MMA all motivate me, but there’s been a bit of an extra push lately – thanks to some smart marketing by big brands, and
spokespeople role models I can finally relate to.
I’ve always been a fan of boxing, if you follow me on social or read my other blog themsadventures.com, you’ll know I’ve taken up Muay Thai/kickboxing in the last few years. The sport has given me an awareness and confidence in myself and my body I have never felt. While I am nowhere near pro or even amateur TBH, I appreciate and respect what fighters do to succeed in their craft. I especially admire the female fighters because let’s face it; while recognition for women in boxing and martial arts have grown, it’s still a man’s world.
When Ronda Rousey burst onto the scene I was Team Rowdy all the way, she had the confidence, swagger and skill, she knew it, she worked on it and she wore it proudly. I loved it. She was embraced by Hollywood and big brands, even a beauty brand with her Strong is Beautiful campaign with Pantene Pro-V. I can’t remember a beauty brand working with a female fighter before this (but please correct me if I’m wrong).
A few weeks ago, Nike unveiled their new FE/NOM Flyknit Bra made with their super comfy Flyknit material (I’ve worn Nike Free Flyknit 4.0 for years and love them). Mia Kang is featured in the campaign, best known for her work in modelling and spreads in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue she is also a Muay Thai fighter, training in Thailand and New York.
My initial reaction to seeing the posts on Instagram was that of excitement and inspiration: What?! Game face on, hands wrapped, fists up – yass! Bad-ass, get it.
I had the same reaction on Insta again to Under Armour’s on-going #UnlikeAny #IWill campaign –kicked off by the amazing ballerina Misty Copeland – with new ads featuring Taekwondo Black Belt, Zoe Zhang with poetry by Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes.
Coming back after injury and showing off those crazy kicks - I feel that fire in my belly to get to the gym and work harder.
You may call me brain-washed by the big brand marketing execs, but it’s not true. Kang (who is half South-Korean, half British) and Zhang (who is Chinese, born and raised in Beijing) don’t just represent the power and strength of female fighters and athletes to me; they also represent Asian women in sport. Not just in some small way, or every four years at the Olympics, but on the big stage, in global campaigns for all women and men of all ethnicities to see.
This is the difference to me.
Two Asian women working to be the best they can be in and out of sports, with appearances I can relate to. No, I know I’m no model or world-class athlete. But I have dark hair, dark small eyes and tan/yellow skin. Growing up, I never saw women who looked like me, or my mom, or my cousins represented in these campaigns, especially not in those related to sport and fitness.
On top of this, both Kang and Zhang are highly educated, Kang studied philosophy, economics and has a masters in finance and financial law, while Zhang graduated from the Beijing Sports Institute – beauty, brains and brawn. Triple threats.
It’s about damn time, it feels good, and I am so glad that young Asian women and women of colour will see themselves represented, will have women outside their own personal circle to look up to, and know that they can be next – and I can’t wait to see it.