Roxy Rides a Wave of Social Backlash Over Sexy Video Ad


Sexy; provocative; engaging; sexploitation: Those are just a few of the terms used to describe Roxy’s new video ad for its upcoming women’s surf contest.

The iconic female surfing and sporting brand has attracted some unsightly attention from its Roxy Pro Biarritz 2013 Teaser video, which was posted to YouTube in late June. The video, which is an ad for the company’s famed European competition, features a blonde woman who is half-naked for most of the ad, while the camera focuses on her lower half and never once shows her face—or much surfing. The video asks viewers to guess who the female athlete in the video is—assuming fans can identify pro female surfers by their backsides. 

Consumer backlash ensued, but Roxy, in another ‘brands on social media’ case study, was quick to defend the sexy ad.[more]

In a post on its Facebook page, Roxy said in response to criticism:

“All athletes are naturally beautiful, in and out of the water. You certainly don’t have to be sexy to be an athlete, & we also believe it’s not wrong to be an athlete and to be sexy, if you choose to be. We don’t judge one to be better than the other & we don’t believe in excluding one for the other. Thank you for the passionate thoughts shared on the video, & for expressing how much you respect women in surfing.”

But fans and activists weren’t quick to lie down. “It shouldn’t be focused on a surfer’s body or sex at all, it should be about their talent and athleticism and power,” one user wrote. 

“It objectifies her, breaking her down into side-boob and bum shots. It avoids humanising her by NOT showing her face. This is sending a clear message about sex and sport and the value of women,” another posted. (soft porny body parts) according to Roxy. How totally disappointing. You could do such good things, and you do this?! LAME,” said another.

“This is disgusting. Just another ad for men. Where are the women surfing? Why aren’t pro female surfers good enough to promote on their skill alone? Never seen a male surf comp promoted like this. Poor Form Roxy. Redo it!,” read another. 

One user even drew a comparison between Roxy and the scandal-embroiled Abercrombie & Fitch, which recently came under fire for its overly sexualized ads and exclusionary clothing styles, asking, “Does Mike Jeffries work for Roxy now?”

Critics are vowing to boycott the brand that positions itself as one to appeal to young women. Catharine Lumby, a professor of media at Macquarie University in Australia said the ad belongs “in the 1970s.” 

Ad exec and social commentator Jane Caro told Marketing Magazine Australia, “If I was them I would be feeling embarrassed, and I don’t think this is a smart piece of marketing at all. Female surfers are powerful, highly-skilled female athletes, and to control that you have to turn them all into Barbie dolls…”

Roxy is holding its ground though, saying that “women are complex and multi-dimensional. To ignore this fact is to ignore who we truly are.” A bit of an odd stance for a brand that wants its fans to identify a surfer based solely on the shape of her body.