How the sporting world celebrated International Women’s Day

How the sporting world celebrated International Women’s Day

When International Women’s Day began in 1909, it was a demonstration of female textile workers in Petrograd that started the Russian Revolution. 107 years later, International Women’s Day retains some of that spirit. It is a day that both celebrates women and pushes for equal rights.

Each year, people, organizations, and brands take to social media to spread a message: today is about women. Among these voices are the voices of the sports world. As an industry where women are under-represented, sport takes a special interest in International Women’s Day. Here are some of the best campaigns from this year.


Nike is a company that is at its best when it’s taking a stand on social issues. This year, Nike highlighted their latest ad campaign: Believe In More. Made up of three specialized ads, the campaign targets women in Russia, Turkey and the Middle East. In these three markets, there remains a barrier in sports, and there is a stigma against women exercising and competing.

In the Russian ad, a young girl gets on stage and sings a traditional Russian song about what little girls are made of. Midway through, she changes the words because of the appearance of famous Russian female athletes. The ad tackles the pervasive Russian attitudes and ideas about what it means to be a woman.

In Turkey, there are still rigid ideas about gender roles. The ad depicts women breaking out of traditional roles and stereotypes to compete and exercise. It features prominent Turkish female athletes, all set to “Run the World (Girls)” by Beyonce.

The Middle Eastern ad has faced the most backlash. The political climate in the area means that many women face barriers in sports. The ad, featuring both regular women and professional athletes, also celebrates the release of the Nike Pro Hijab.


The guiding principle of the Olympics is peaceful international competition, rooted in equality and friendship. It’s no wonder that they took to social media to celebrate International Women’s Day. The organization stayed away from the political, instead choosing to focus on the greatest female athletes to ever compete at the Olympics.

The Olympic Twitter account featured videos of athletes from Aly Raisman to Wilma Rudolph to Yuna Kim, telling their stories and sharing their words about what it means for them to compete.

This Girl Can

This Girl Can is a campaign started by Sport England in 2015 in an attempt to narrow the gap between women and men who exercise regularly. The ad found success by showing real women working out, not fitness models. It features slogans such as “I jiggle, therefore I am” and “Sweating like a pig, feeling like a fox”.

The campaign found enormous success, and has continued to create content since. Their ad for this year’s International Women’s Day featured real women working out as Maya Angelou narrates, speaking about the strengths and joys of being a woman.


The WNBA is the biggest women’s sports league in North America, and one of the bigger women’s leagues in the world. They also celebrated International Women’s Day more extensively than any other North American league.

The league shared iconic moments from their history, teams’ tributes to the day, and special graphics featuring iconic players. It was a multi-faceted approach that highlighted the 21-year history of the league.

Sweden Women’s Football

As the biggest sport in the world, football creates a platform unlike any other sport. Many teams and organizations chose to use International Women’s Day to spread inspiring or political messages.

Sweden chose to go down the inspiring route. For a short time, the names on the back of the Swedish National Soccer Team jerseys will be replaced by inspirational tweets about women’s empowerment.


The historically successful Brazilian men’s club wore special shirts on Wednesday to make a statement about the day. The shirts featured statistics about challenges and violence that women face in South America.

It’s a big statement for a club to make, though it shouldn’t be. Very few men’s sports organizations took any action to recognize International Women’s Day, so Cruzeiro’s message stands out—particularly the way they took it in a serious political direction.

Seattle Reign

Several NWSL teams celebrated International Women’s Day with pictures and inspirational quotes. But only one team really went beyond that.

The Seattle Reign currently have the only female manager in the 10-team league, a fact they had no qualms about highlighting. And it’s not a stunt, since the team were 2014 and 2015 league champions. It’s a funny political statement, but a statement nonetheless.