This girl certainly can

On the eve of International Women's Day Bethan Palmer shares her view on ThisGirlCan, the campaign aimed exclusively at encouraging women and girls to not only take part, but enjoy sport and physical activity. #InternationalWomensDay

Bethan Palmer

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March 6, 2018

A keen believer in the power of sport, Bethan Palmer is our sport and physical activity sector expert. With 7+ years involvement in sport roles, from developing insight driven sport participation programmes like O2 Touch, to researching the needs of the sport and physical activity workforce, here she talks about her favourite advertising campaign.

Inequality exists in many areas of life but the gap between physical activity levels in men and women has always shocked me!  I grew up with sport playing a huge part in my life – taking part in sport on every week night, studying sport at college and uni, and working within grassroots sport – the thought that for many women and girls sport and physical activity just isn’t something they consider, or indeed that it’s something they actively reject, worries me.  So when Sport England launched the insight based ThisGirlCan campaign in 2015 I was thrilled.  Here we had a campaign aimed exclusively at encouraging women and girls to not only take part, but enjoy, sport and physical activity.  And even better the campaign was based on research amongst the target audience! 


Firstly the campaign creatively was brilliant – the imagery used was striking and the creative style certainly stood out from other ‘sport’ based advertising.  Secondly the campaign aimed to normalise sport and physical activity for women – some of whom see sport and physical activity as anything but normal!  I’m an advocate of the theory of ‘Nudge’ as outlined in Thaler & Sunstein (2009) Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness.  I love how the ThisGirlCan campaign worked with the notion of Herd Behaviour – and goes to great lengths to shift long held perceptions in the heads of some women.  Growing up as a sport obsessed teenager I never quite understood the girls who shied away from doing PE for fear of getting sweaty and messing up their hair and make-up, but the majority of girls at my school bought into this, followed the herd and forged letters from their parents to excuse them from PE.  ThisGirlCan shouted out to women saying other women just like you take part in sport.

This use of social norms to me is such a powerful element of the campaign.  And it’s had an impact.  I’ve loved seeing women I’ve known, many of whom rejected physical activity for years, embracing the campaign, proudly using #thisgirlcan on social media – which again just perpetuates the message that sport and physical activity is for all women.

In case you’ve been left in any doubt, I love the ThisGirlCan campaign – not simply for the creative, but for what it has done for sport and physical activity (hearing men ask for a ThisBoyCan campaign at a recent conference was a personal highlight) – and most importantly its role in empowering women and attempting to redress inequality.

But there is one other important point I’d like to emphasise. In Morar HPI’s own evaluation of the campaign, it was apparent that the ThisGirlCan message has the potential of reaching a far wider target than the 18-40-year-old female group it was aimed at . A lot of people outside the primary target appreciated the tone of the campaign and were frustrated that the advertising didn’t represent them as well – particularly males and older women. 18-40-year-old males were as likely as females to find ThisGirlCan relevant and motivating, while 41+ year-old females found it warm and appealing. This illustrates the possible untapped potential to get more people physically active in light of the inactivity crisis the country is facing.


If you’d like to continue the conversation and find out more about our work within sport and physical activity please contact Bethan Palmer (

Morar HPI Limited is part of MIG Global and part of the Next15 Group.

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