Prabsy: Nike Pro Hijab breaks the conflict


By Prabsy (Prabhakar) Mundkur

The Nike Pro Hijab is a true cultural innovation. I thought it breaks the cultural conflict which has prevented Muslim women from engaging in sports. Muslim women have faced many barriers to sports and exercise, such as hijab bans, large-scale poverty and religious intolerance.

I think the Pro Hijab is therefore a fantastic cultural innovation. It will help more Muslim women embrace sport. Muslim women have much lower rates of sports participation in some countries because of the lack of sport appropriate clothing. Nike is always demonstrating its inclusivity. For example, it recently introduced a plus size for women in the US. Muslim athletes have needed a better hijab option for sports for years.

After all sports is important not only from the point of physical exercise which has obvious health benefits. Women who exercise regularly or play sports tend to have a better body image, regardless of their actual shape or size. Besides sports is a great equaliser that doesn’t discriminate between race, religion and gender.

Amna Al Haddad a weightlifter from the UAE who was earlier in a Nike ad titled ‘Inner Strength’ says “As Muslim women, we have been vocal in the media about it — personally since 2011 — the big guys can’t help but notice us ‘the underdogs’ and our impact in the sports industry and world,” she wrote. “They know that we are here to stay and decided to join the party and create another ‘competitive’ sport hijab in the market, which by the way, did exist in the market for few years now.”

Nike’s Pro Hijab: Perfect timing

From a marketing point of view the timing was perfect to introduce the Pro Hijab on International Women’s Day. Trust Nike to match the innovation with a global event.

Also Nike perfectly timed their new TVC in the Middle East released two weeks ago which encourages women to participate in sports.

Its a beautifully made commercial titled ‘ What will they say about you?’. An ad that tries to break down the cultural barriers that have prevented Muslim women from participating in sports.

Stephane Missier, Planning Director at Weiden+Kennedy Amsterdam, Nike’s ad agency told AdWeek earlier, ‘Nike has in the past tackled the insecurities women face when it comes to doing sport, but in our markets, we discovered different insecurities—in the form of societal expectations, gender discrimination and community pressures. The barriers we found became the foundation for the work, in each case flipping stereotypes and preconceptions.”

According to a Nike statement the product has been in development for a year, but it’s in line with the company’s founding mission “to serve athletes, but with the signature addendum: If you have a body, you’re an athlete.”

What’s wonderful is that Nike is making sure that no sports person is being discriminated against or disadvantaged ; from their earlier campaign featuring a transgender duathlete Chris Mosier and the 86 year old ” Iron Nun’ to its more recent International Women’s Day ads featuring sportswomen from Russia Turkey and Middle East.

Well done Nike! Please keep doing it!

From the editor: The musings on Work and Life from my good friend Prabs, or Prabsy, as he is fondly known (his official name on his passport is is Prabhakar Mundkur, BTW), will continue on Prabsy is one of India’s best known and most respected thinkers and strategists on Advertising and Marketing and their great impact on Business. In its first list from India entitled LinkedIn Top Voices 2016: The 15 must-know writers in India, arrived at with the help of data and editorial signals, LinkedIN declared on 12 December 2016 that Prabhakar Mundkur had topped the list. I am sure you will revel in Prabsy’s deep insights and his beautifully simple and direct writing which, to my mind, is always the most difficult for an author, and the most rewarding for the reader.

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