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Source: University of Delaware, Published August 04 2012

Hot Topics: Study finds female athletes rarely and ineffectively used as ad spokespeople

Your best chance to see a female athlete endorsing a product will be during the next few weeks.

The Olympics’ commercial breaks may be littered with female swimmers, runners and gymnasts, but don’t expect to see them much again until the next Olympics.

American companies rarely employ female athletes as spokeswomen and when they do, according to two University of Delaware professors, they most often do it poorly.

John Antil and Matthew Robinson’s upcoming article in the Journal of Brand Strategy suggests advertisers’ tactics are creating a cycle of failure for female athlete endorsers.

“The way female athletes are being used as endorsers negatively impacts their effectiveness and reduces wider opportunities for other female athletes,” Antil said.

He points to advertisers’ focus on youth and sex appeal, rather than other defining characteristics, including athletic ability.

The researchers conducted nine focus groups on the topic. They asked participants to react to ads and discuss their perceptions. Ads that focused on athletes’ attractiveness often elicited negative responses from female participants.

For example, the 2009 “Got Milk?” ad featuring swimmer Dara Torres in a skimpy bathing suit did not impress.

“Respondents suggested this was a poor image for an outstanding athlete who achieved so much while raising a family,” the authors said.

What SheSays: The Olympics are a great place to find positive female role models, but companies need to realize women have influence beyond just their physical appearance.

We should talk about their accomplishments in sports while balancing life at home instead of just their killer abs.

And why feature these stars just every four years?