23 Sep 2018 | Digital editions, magazines, websites, e-zines, handbooks and contract publishing for the leisure industry

Health Club Management issue 9, 2018 is now out!


Health Club Management bloggers:

Liz Terry
Leisure Media

Kate Cracknell
Health Club Management

Ian Taylor

Gareth Edwards
Director of Education,

John Goodbody
Sports Journalist

Peter Ducker
Chief executive,
Institute of Hospitality

Suki Kalirai
Interim CEO,

Sam Coulstock
Customer Relationship Director,

Leah De Silva
Business development director,

Peter Moody
Brook Street des Roches LLP

David Stalker

Charles Wilford
Co-Head, Leisure Team,
Gerald Eve

Is fit now offensive?

02 Jun 2015
by Kate Cracknell, editor-at-large, Health Club Management
What does it say about our society when we’re offended by the sight of a fit, healthy body?

Fitness industry take heed: some of today’s consumers see images of fit, toned bodies not as aspirational and motivating, but rather as offensive and discriminatory. At least, that’s what the recent furore over Protein World’s ‘Are you beach body ready?’ ad campaign would have us believe.

It all kicked off in April with adverts for the company’s diet shakes, which appeared in the London Underground. The poster – of a slim, toned model in a yellow bikini next to the words ‘Are you beach body ready?’ – was hardly the first to use this sort of imagery to sell a product. Yet this particular poster got the public’s back up, and within days an outpouring on Twitter – #everybodysready – had led to defaced posters, tens of thousands of people signing an online petition demanding they be taken down, and a small protest in Hyde Park where people of all shapes and sizes braved the UK weather to strip down to their swimming costumes and show off their ‘beach bodies’.

Protein World’s response was defiant, launching its own #getagrip hashtag and, it claims, reaping the rewards of this viral phenomenon in the shape of £1m+ in direct sales revenue. Neither did the advertising authorities share protesters’ concerns: Transport for London only took the posters down at the end of the three-week campaign as they didn’t contravene its advertising standards, while the ASA has only now banned the ad over concerns of misleading health claims – although it is now investigating whether the poster breaks harm and offence rules.

The social media-fuelled outcry should therefore be taken with a pinch of salt. Yes, the objections are worth bearing in mind – especially by a sector that, as a whole, still relies far too heavily on ‘beach body’-style images in its marketing. But really it’s just about knowing your audience.

If you’re a leisure centre with a brief to get inactive people moving, then follow the lead of This Girl Can, Nuffield Health and I Will If You Will, whose recent ads show how ‘normal’ people can be both aspirational and realistic.

However, if you’re a CrosssFit box that caters for the already fit, the yellow bikini girl – slim but hardly a size zero – would be an appropriate image. Ditto for Protein World, as evidenced by its sales boom. You can’t be all things to all people in your advertising; if you are, you’re probably not making an impact with your target market.

But #everybodysready raises another consideration: the public’s growing acceptance of overweight as the norm – and a norm we increasingly daren’t challenge for fear of offence. But what does it say about our society when we’re offended by the sight of a fit, healthy body?

Body image is certainly a topic to be addressed delicately, and of course there’s a difference between a few extra pounds and obesity. But with new research showing that nearly 95 per cent of parents of overweight children believe their kids are exactly the right size – and many overweight people perceiving themselves to be slimmer than they are – the fitness industry has a role to play in educating people and helping re-set their sights before this new norm becomes embedded.

Tags: Health Club Management  health & fitness 

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