Skins Sportswear: Racism At Its Finest?

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The Australian sportswear company, Skins Sportwear has a history of bold and controversial advertising which has led to litigation in the past. However nothing would beat their 2008 controversial 45-second “Beyond Reason” commercial, which scored numerous headlines deeming it as racist, inflammatory and needlessly provocative.

The “Beyond Reason” commercial for Skins denotes African-American athletes training and competing in athletics, sports and fitness. The visuals are accompanied by a voiceover which reflects the views of African-American athletes who claim that Black men and women are better athletes because they are genetically stronger and tougher and thus have natural prowess. What does this connote? The company controversially uses this as a supposedly compelling reason to buy and wear their Skins -Why? Because if you want to compete with the superior Black athletes, then you must wear the Skins product.

“We’re faster, we got more skill, got the stamina. Superior athletes. You know when it comes to the physicality of a sport, the African Americans have the advantage. It just comes naturally to us. You got to look at our ancestry. We were born warriors. Natural instinct. It’s like a killer mentality. If you look at the way a black male is built, more muscle, stronger, If you want to be like us….”

As you can imagine, this commercial was received with great backlash and generated outrage across the internet. Beneath the surface of the commercial, it clearly challenges the idea of egalitarianism -are we not all equal? Is it not possible for us to fulfil all our dreams regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, class etc? Surely it is. I also think that this commercial could  potentially send the wrong message to young non-African American children who are aspiring athletes. These concerns reflect Mitchell Hobbs’ assertion that ‘rather than seeing the truth behind a sign, we only see the myth connoted by the image’ (Hobbs, 91). Here, there are two myths: firstly, African-American athletes have an athletic advantage due to their genetics; and secondly, you must wear Skins to overcome your disadvantage. Furthermore,  it is important to note that the social and political context  in which we live today, has influenced the response that this advertisement is racist.  Jacques Derrida argues that ‘signs, as units of meaning within a language, are defined by the ontological values of a particular community of language users…’ (Hobbs 2012, p.92). Thus this text should be understood through the subjective values and beliefs embedded in our language (Hobbs 2012, p.92).

 While the commercial was not aired in America and England, it definitely got the people talking. Managing director Anthony Gregorio admitted that such a provocative text was part of the marketing strategy as it gained so much public relations coverage. Thus while it may not have been deemed in a positive light, the “Beyond Reason” commercial succeeded with being under the spotlight.

What do you guys think about this commercial?

 

Reference List

Article

Hobbs, M, 2012, ‘Semiotics: making meaning from signs’, in T Chalkley, A Brown, T Cinque, B Warren, M Hobbs & M Finn, (eds.), Communication, New Media and Everyday Life, Oxford University Press,  South Melbourne, Victoria, pp83-96.

Online

Australian Identity Forums 2008, ‘Racist Sportswear Brand Says Black People Superior’, viewed 15 March 2014, < http://australianidentity.net/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=239

Lee, J 2008, ‘Racist Charge on Sportswear Campaign’, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 March, viewed 15 March 2014, < http://www.smh.com.au/business/racist-charge-on-sportswear-campaign-20080312-1z0u.html>

Video

John Davidson 2008, Skins Sportswear Ad, video, YouTube, 12 March, viewed 15 March, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeUCEzMXov4>. 

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2 thoughts on “Skins Sportswear: Racism At Its Finest?

  1. Loved this post as I remember this ad campaign quite vividly! I completely agree the issue you’re raising when you say “it clearly challenges the idea of egalitarianism”. Also the two myths you mentioned are exactly what I got from the advertisement and I enjoyed how you broke them down. However despite all the ‘negative’ publicity and backlash, some would argue that the marketing campaign could actually be seen as a strategical movement. When we think about Basketball, NFL, Football and Athletics there are a lot of African American superstars whom this campaign connotes. It is encouraging the upcoming generation of sport enthusiasts to become ‘more like their idols’ and as you said ‘overcome their disadvantage’. I personally don’t agree with their tactics here as it raises several moral and ethical concerns, however I do see why their marketing team had emphasised this ideology.
    Overall very informative post and loved the argument you presented!

    • Thanks for your comment! Yes I can see where you’re coming from in relation to the advertisement being a strategic marketing campaign. That is true. Creating such a controversy would also be another strategy as it places Skins Sportswear under the spotlight.

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