The Brands Connecting to Women Without Stereotypes

By Joanna Valente

Stereotypes are still all too common, especially when it comes to gender. There are many industries, interests, and places where women aren't typically seen or included as part of the group.

Representation in the media, and creating avenues for women to equally and safely participate in areas often seen as male-dominated(such as gaming), and are essential to bridging the gender gap for women. Even more important, accurate representation and equal inclusion allows women to be seen and to feel, and act wholly, rather than feel isolated or limited by barriers.

Here are ways brands are assisting in creating equality within causes and areas that are often rife with stereotypes:

Esports and Gaming

Mark Chang, head of gaming and esports strategy and sponsorships at Verizon, wants to change the perception of gaming. Many people, for instance, assume it is a male-dominated landscape, which is untrue. As reported by Verizon at an ANA event, "45 percent of U.S. gamers are female. However, only 22 percent of women worldwide engage with esports communities."

Many of the reasons women don't participate as much include lack of tournaments, harassment, lack of role models, and an absence of sponsorships for women. However, Chang cited some case studies that are changing the norms, including his work with Intel's World Open, which was open to "anyone, regardless of gender, race, or home country, offering an entirely level playing field. Competitors qualified online, then traveled to the Olympic host country to participate in the tournament in person."

Further, Verizon created a program for female Valorant gamers, which the event recap described as a "streamed tournament for female players in which they could hone their skills, cultivate potential sponsorship deals, and offer other female gamers positive role models." Verizon's program also offered participants "access to its 5G labs, where they not only practiced, but acquired exposure to other careers in the gaming industry besides those that put them in front of the camera with a console in their hands."

Moreover, Verizon created a scholarship that helped "promising female gamers to attend five HBCUs and provided an esports facility at each of the schools that could double as a STEM lab when not in use by the gamers."


For women, the cosmetics industry can be fraught with stereotypes, unfair societal pressure to appear "perfect," and an overemphasis on youth and youthful portrayals. Rarely are older women portrayed in ads, for example.

Neutrogena wanted to highlight older women in ads and offer more affordable skin care. For its Rapid line, the brand sought to encourage women age 65 and older to feel connected — and good — in their skin and through their skin care routines.

To do so, the brand leveraged social media to raise awareness for its Rapid line. Ultimately, the Facebook campaign "earned over 5.4 million impressions, generated a 51 percent sales lift, and gave Neutrogena's total portfolio a healthy boost, with 39 percent more sales than the overall facial moisturizer segment during the campaign period," as explained in the ANA case study.

Exercise and Outdoor Activity

To raise awareness with women, footwear brand Merrell launched the Merrell Hiking Club, which was "created to inspire and encourage women to go hiking. Women were chosen for this initiative because many of them have stated that they would like to go hiking but don't feel safe being out in the woods alone. The club serves as a space where women can go to give tips for hiking, provide information on their favorite trails, and even organize hikes with other members of the club," according to the ANA event recap.

The term "self-care" has become a buzzword for people, and brands, and can often lose its meaning. Merrell wanted to refocus the term in a way that would make a difference for women, physically and emotionally, through exercise. In its "Find the More in Less" campaign, the company poked "at the gimmicks of the self-care industry," and emphasized "that nature offers one of the simplest, cheapest, and most effective ways for women to take care of themselves."

Similarly, adidas wanted to help "Middle Eastern women to overcome the confidence gap associated with swimming in public," and so launched a new swimwear line, according to the ANA case study

Its "Beyond the Surface" campaign focused on building confidence; according to the brand, 32 percent of women "in the world don't feel comfortable swimming in public, and in the Middle East, that number stands at 88 percent." To create an emotional connection, the brand focused on telling the stories of women in the Middle East, rather than of influencers or public figures.

To do this, adidas created its Liquid Billboard, which "doubled as a swimming pool. Designed to inspire confidence in women, the billboard turned every swimmer into [an] ambassador for adidas's new inclusive swimwear collection."

Joanna Valente is a director of editorial and content development at ANA.

The views and opinions expressed in Industry Insights are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.