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Athletics-Asher-Smith takes aim at double standards in sports marketing

Britain’s fastest female sprinter Dina Asher-Smith has hit out at sports marketers for differences in the way they portray male and female athletes, saying too many messages featuring women focus on aesthetics rather than sporting success.

The 25-year-old, a triple European gold medallist who holds British records in 100 and 200 metres, said that while marketing campaigns involving elite female athletes had improved in recent years, efforts were still needed to “speed it up”.

“With men, if you’re the winner, you’re the MVP. You get the trophy, flowers,” Asher-Smith wrote on the Players’ Tribune.

“If they’re marketing a new pair of football boots, they’re going to use someone like Lionel Messi… not someone who only plays recreationally just because he fits the image better.

“Yet, often that is the case… with women. Because they fit an aesthetic ideal? What kind of message does that send to the eight-year-old girl… to girls who aspire to be athletes?”

According to a Nielsen study in 2018, women’s only sport attracted just 1% of the sponsorship market, 3% of print coverage and 4% of online coverage, while less than 20% of all TV sport covered women only or mixed sport.

Asher-Smith questioned why the achievements of sportswomen such as Marta, Katie Ledecky and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce were not highlighted to the same extent as those of Messi, Tiger Woods and other successful sportsmen.

“If you’re the GOAT (Greatest of all time), the world-record holder, the gold medallist… you deserve everything. At least it is for men,” she added. “But there are countless examples of where this isn’t the case in women’s sports.

“We can see the double standard… but the eight-year-old girl can’t. She thinks even if you’re the best your sport has ever seen… it is still more valuable to the narrative of this industry to fit an aesthetic.”

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