Ever since cheerleaders have been around, women have assumed the role of sports accessories. The latest crop of world cup ads, like Kia's Adriana Lima commercial, don't seem to be making any progress, PolicyMic points out. Tradition dictates that with every good sports game comes a pizza delivery, a keg, and a team of short-skirted women with pom-poms. Meanwhile, when women aren’t busy playing sex-kitten sports enthusiasts, they are portrayed as nuisances, distracting their boyfriends from watching the game. These are the two archetypes that have been established by sports advertising over the last decades, and unfortunately, this year's World Cup tournament in Brazil is no exception.
Take Kia Motors' “Football vs. Fútbol” commercial, for example. A posh white car drives onto an American style football field, interrupting a team of loud, bulky players. Out of the car stems a bronzed, slender leg, as the famous Brazilian model Adriana Lima emerges. Lima struts towards the team, resting her stiletto on their soccer ball and silencing them completely. “In my country, this is called fútbol,” she says in a sultry Brazilian accent. She kicks the ball towards the team, leaving them stunned, and struts off. “For one month, let's all be fútbol fans." It’s a classic advertising strategy, capitalizing on sexual energy, while reinforcing stereotypes about the kind of women who will be present at the Brazilian games.
Meanwhile, The Independent brought an entirely different kind of commercial to our attention: an ad that reduces women to mere distractions who have no place in a man’s living room. The British ad for Pringles featured three male English soccer fans eating Pringles while watching the tournament. When one of the men receives a phone call from his girlfriend, he answers it and says, “Oh hi hon, I’m just traveling. Yeah, I’m going into a tunnel,” before throwing his phone into the Pringles tube and putting the lid on it. How dare she disturb him.
World cup paraphernalia has reinforced the degrading stereotypes associated with women as well, Policy Mic points out. Adidas was criticized for introducing a series of T-shirts that played off the ‘typical’ Brazilian woman. One T-shirt included an illustration of a curvy, bikini clad, dark haired beauty with the slogan “Lookin’ to Score in Brazil,” while another revamped the traditional “I heart Brazil” T-shirt, replacing the heart with a butt in skimpy bikini bottoms.
What’s phenomenal about this trend of advertising is that is so blatantly refuses to acknowledge the large percentage of female sports viewers. In 2010, FIFA says 43 percent of global live viewership of the 2010 World Cup was female. And yet, the offensive and antiquated portrayal of women in sports continues to plague advertisements and paraphernalia meant to promote the World Cup. It’s time we re-evaluate the role of women in sports advertising, and honor female participation in this tournament.