Britain's fastest female sprinter Dina Asher-Smith has criticised sports marketers for their failure to champion 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 and is hotly tipped to impress in Tokyo this summer, 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.
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"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?"
There are plenty of examples of sports events and clubs relying on female models rather than athletes for promotional purposes - for example, Manchester United attracted fierce criticism for using female models for a kit launch prior to the 2018 establishment of their women's side.
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And according to a Nielsen study in 2018, women-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 legendary achievements of sportswomen such as footballer Marta, swimmer Katie Ledecky and sprint great Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce were not highlighted to the same extent as those of Messi, golfer 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."
With additional reporting courtesy of Reuters.
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