Using Sex Appeal as a Sport Promotion Strategy

in Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal
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  • 1 The University of Michigan Department of Sport Management, 3040 CCRB, 401 Washtenaw Ave, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-2214, USA
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Recently the International Beach Volleyball Federation (FIVB) implemented a uniform rule that many protesters felt was designed to use the female players as sex objects to attract an audience. In marketing terms, the FIVB implemented a sexual appeal strategy to market their sport. This is only one example of the use of sex and eroticism to promote a sport. There are many others including cheerleaders, fitness programming, bodybuilding, men’s professional soccer and Australian Rules football. Sex in advertising has been a long-debated subject and very little is known about its lasting effects. Sexual appeals play to the sexual survival motive that consists of three elements: sexual gender, sexual impulse and sexual inhibition. Whenever any of these elements appear in advertising, the general goal is to arouse desire for a product. In this paper I examine the strategic purpose for using sexual appeals, the manner in which they impact target audiences, and the potential consequences of this marketing approach. It is clear from the literature that sexual appeals draw attention to the sport using it. However, this attention occurs at the risk of target audiences perceiving the athlete as poor quality, as a negative symbol, or as something less that a true athlete. Sponsors must also worry about being associated with sports that use sex appeals because if the spectator is irritated then this irritation could transfer to the sponsor’s products.

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