What Are You Selling?

Walking by the local mall recently, I spotted these two athletes gracing the SportChek window.

Christine SinclairChristine Sinclair

Steve Stamkos

Beside the obvious “she’s wearing a pink top, he’s wearing a blue” that has been ingrained into us by countless stores (especially babyGap), there’s something interesting in the choice of sport celebrities for this ad campaign: male + hockey vs. female + soccer.

I think in part due to the recent Olympics and the fact that there is no hockey this season, she’s the much higher profile athlete of the two at the moment. That a female athlete is higher profile than a male athlete is a big enough deal, but here, in Canada, for a soccer player to trump a hockey player is almost unheard of. Now Stamkos is a good player, I know who he is and if he were on the ice, I might even know what team he plays for (it is still Tampa Bay right?). On the other hand, Sinclair is now nominated for FIFA’s female player of the year, won a bronze medal and en route to that medal got the entire country behind her and her team for the injustice they suffered against the USA (always a popular Canadian storyline).  So yay to women’s soccer for being able to rank up there with hockey.

But wait a minute. Now we’ve got the other message going on here: that our men play hockey and our women play soccer. I don’t see Dwayne DeRosario gracing the side of a mall anywhere (last year’s MLS MVP), and is there a women’s hockey player that could be up there instead of Sinclair? I think that the success of Canada in various sports is reinforcing some acceptable sporting choices and selection of role models for youth. How could you not be inspired by the Canadian Women’s Soccer team after the Olympics, and same with the Men’s Hockey in Vancouver? But there is the divide, boys find their role models in hockey – cause the CMNT in soccer is not something you aspire to, you choose it if you don’t have dual citizenship with somewhere else (ahem: Hargreaves, Hoillett, and de Guzman). Girls have a choice between the two, but women’s soccer is almost as high profile as women’s hockey (not that that says much outside Olympic years). And three years from now we’re set to host the Women’s World Cup, raising the soccer profile further.

I don’t mind the higher profile the women’s sport is getting, ultimately it’s good for both boys and girls, but I worry that even in the ads we’re starting to say that boys play this and girls play that – which is not healthy for either sport.