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Despite Competition Success, Sportswomen Will Be Far More Successful If They Are Attractive And Marketable.

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It is a growing issue that some elite sportswomen are more �successful’ merely because of their looks and sex appeal. As a result, they gain much more publicity and recognition because of the sponsorship and marketing. The Australian Sports Commission (online) claims that sexploitation, the sexualising of athletes, applies to forms of marketing which focus attention on the sexual attributes of female athletes. In this context, the value of the sportswoman is judged primarily in terms of her body type and attractiveness, rather than for the qualities that define her as an athlete. This creates an ironic situation for elite sportswomen. In order to attract media and sponsor interest, i.e. become �successful’, many female athletes resort to marketing themselves or their sport for their �voyeuristic potential’. However, if this approach is successful, the increased interest is not on their performances and successes, but on their sex appeal.

Athletes blessed with attractiveness and marketability will earn more money outside of their sport than someone who does not share these qualities, due to increased sponsorship because of their looks. A prime example of someone who is very successful in this context despite never winning a tournament is Anna Kournikova, an attractive Russian tennis player. The profile of Anna Kournikova, one of the highest paid tennis players of her era, rests predominantly on her physical appeal rather than her talent вЂ" she has never actually won a major title. She may not be very successful in her performances, but she is triumphant in sponsorships and endorsements.

It seems that when it comes to women and product endorsements, sex still sells better than athletic expertise on the playing field, which is colliding with the old-age philosophy “sex sells”. This can lead to the assumption that sex appeal is more important to become successful than playing the sport well. Anna Kournikova, the attractive tennis player “whose looks have earned her an estimated $11 million to $15 million in endorsement contracts despite a lacklustre record on the professional circuit” (New York Times, online), displays an obvious use of sex appeal to get sponsors and an audience, because, for an advertiser, the most important element is visibility. However, sometimes individuals are critical of the sex appeal displayed and believe it is a derogatory stereotype of women. For example, Anna Kournikova was the subject of a cover in Sports Illustrated, and the “cheesecake” layout accompanying the article led to criticism of her for “perpetuating the stereotype of women as sex objects to the detriment of other female athletes who may be better at their sports but not as conventionally attractive” (New York Times, online). Quite a few observers aren’t unhappy with the use of sex appeal in sport at all. A poll was taken in 2002 to determine whether female athletes should use sex appeal to get audiences for their sport (CNN Money, online):

An issue which now arises asks the question of whether those that are вЂ?sexy’ are more recognised than those who excel in their sport. Chris Isidore, CNN Money staff writer (CNN Money online), stated that “no women sports executive or expert I talked to suggested that sex appeal alone is enough to build fan interest in a sport. With so many R-rated and X-rated forms of entertainment easily available, it’s tough to picture young males flocking to women’s sports simply because the players are nice to look at.” In response to this, Chris De Maria, spokesman for the Women’s Tennis Association, said “[Sexuality] it’s part of our marketing for sure, because it’s a positive part of what we have to offer.” However, the LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw insists that his sport emphasises athletic performance first and foremost to attract supporters. But he also states that athletic performance alone is not enough to build strong ties between players and fans.

Arguably, an elite female athlete will still earn a lot of money if she is skilled and successful on the playing field. However, if a sportswoman is both talented and attractive and marketable, she will earn a huge amount of money and be far more recognised. For example, Maria Sharapova, former World No. 1 tennis player, is the world’s most highly paid female sports athlete (ABC news online). Sharapova has won three Grand Slam singles titles, making her extremely successful performance-wise, but



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