Women's Sport: Nike uses grassroots stories to inspire young girls to play sport

In China, three out of four young girls will stop playing sport by the age of seventeen. Closer to home, in the UK girls are more likely to stop playing sports by Year 10 as body image and confidence become concerns.

Nike, one of the world’s biggest brands, is using a new advertising campaign to get girls in China back into sport and is using grassroots stories from famous athletes to do so.

The new campaign is called ‘Back to the Beginning’ and is the product of a partnership between Nike and Mindshare China according to The Drum. The premise of the campaign is to share stories from some of China’s most recognisable and famous sporting faces to inspire young girls across the country to rediscover the power of sport.

Stories used as part of the campaign include that of Shao Ting who was told in her youth that she would not be able to get both a PhD and become a basketball star, but she defied the odds and achieved both. Ting’s story is being told at the Shanghai Library which is another part of Nike’s plan to use spaces to bring stories into the real world and engage young people.

Strategy partner for Mindshare China, Matthew Nolan, says the campaign is working to address underlying stereotypes in China that are preventing girls from continuing to play sports.

“Nike found that in sports, underlying stereotypes persist that place limits on the development of the female athletes. In fact, nearly 3 out of 4 women drop out of sports by the age of 17.

“In this campaign and most importantly the ‘Back to the Beginning’ activation, Nike wanted to provocatively communicate the true stories of real athletes who overcame limitations to become the world-class athletes they are today, helping to encourage future generations,” he told The Drum.

Choosing where to promote stories was not a coincidence and Nike was keen to use places that had a significant impact on the athletes used in the campaign.

To tell the story of high-jumper Cecelia Yang Nike took over the building next to Wan Chai Sports Ground, where she broke the Hong Kong high-jump record.

“In the execution, Nike was able to go back to specific locations where the hero athletes of the campaign overcame a limitation that was forced on them to become who they are today. In effect, it becomes a motivational challenge to future generations: you can overcome any limitation too,” Nolan added.

Clearly the grassroots angle has been a huge success for Nike and the campaign has seen over 90 million engagements on social media. It signifies that brands are waking up to the fact that young girls and women are a huge audience within sport that is yet to be tapped into.

Campaigns like these see success through story-telling and provide girls and women role models and inspirational figures that open doors for future achievements in sport.

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