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April 23, 2012 • Rants and Raves

Rock n Roll Marathon’s New “Mascot” Proves to Be Divisive

I have run a few Rock n Roll sponsored races, and I don’t view them with the same enmity that some runners do. Yes, they are big, commercial parties, but they also (mostly) organize well done races. I gave them a pass on their disastrous Rock n Roll Las Vegas race; they really ran that into the ground, but a few months later at Rock n Roll DC, I was extremely impressed with how smoothly everything went. However, I really have to question their judgement with their new Facebook mascot/campaign.

As you can tell from the graphic above, their new campaign is with “Blondie”, a bit of a throwback stereotype they apparently ripped straight from the 80s. I don’t think it’s particularly funny, but that’s a matter of taste. A few things really bug me about the direction of the campaign. Specifically, “plus tips on picking up a catch like her on your next morning jog”, as well as a more general frustration.

On a very realistic level, hinting that an early morning run is a good time to meet women is creepy. I can’t speak for all women who run, but I know that when I am running early in the morning I try to be aware of who is around me. It can be freaky to be out in the dark, or early sunlight, and sadly there are some really upsetting and heartbreaking stories of people, especially women, who have been harmed or attacked while running alone. I started carrying pepper spray after a friend relayed a story of being followed by a van for most of her run; she wound up calling the police after it was clear it wasn’t a coincidence, but she did get home safely. Frankly, if I was out running and a random stranger started following/flirting with me, they would be far more likely to get pepper spray in the face than my number (setting aside the fact that I am happily married).

Also, and this is admittedly me being a bit sensitive, I don’t love how the Rock n Roll Marathon series seeks to diminish the idea that women are competitors. The fictional “Barbie” loves Thighmasters and Jazzercise, and the “tips” she will be sharing do not appear to be about running. Remember, as Mike reminded us just last week, it hasn’t been that long since women weren’t welcome to run marathons at all. After all, our uteruses might fall out. Good thing Barbie sticks with Jazzercise. Tearing down women isn’t something stuck in the 1970’s; just last year the International Association of Athletics Foundations decreed that women who start a race at the same time as men are not eligible for world records. In other words, they attempted to erase two of Paula Radcliffe’s jaw dropping world records because there were male pacers involved. Unless the pacers were carrying Paula Radcliffe on their shoulders, I am reasonable certain that she carried herself 26.2 miles in 2:15:25; not that the IAAF cared. So seeing a highly visible organization that advances marathoning around the world use such a silly stereotype feels a bit like one step forward, two steps back.

I think in the end I am not so much offended as disappointed. Disappointed that Rock N Roll races would think this bizarre mishmash of stereotypes, oddly creepy suggestions, and dismissal of people who take running seriously was a good idea. And it isn’t just me…reading over the responses in this Runner’s World thread shows that other people had a similar response. Some people were weirded out, some people were offended, and others didn’t care. I suspect that’s the range of responses for many people. I don’t know why such a strange, not terribly funny, and potentially offensive character is how Rock n Roll wishes to present themselves on Facebook, but that’s their choice. Just like it is mine to not run more of their races, though admittedly I had already decided the fun aspects weren’t worth the expensive entry fees and overcrowded corrals. This certainly doesn’t help to change my mind. Of course, next week it could turn out there’s a male counterpart to “Barbie”, in which case this just becomes a dumb campaign rather than a potential touchstone for gender issues in running!

Do you find it offensive or cringe worthy, or does it just make you roll your eyes? If you saw this on Facebook would you share it and help it go viral? Share your thoughts in the comments. I will be busy brushing up on my Jazzercise so that I don’t lose my uterus anytime soon!

 

10 Responses to " Rock n Roll Marathon’s New “Mascot” Proves to Be Divisive "

  1. If you didn’t know the history of women in marathons, it would seem an odd and perhaps mildly offensive campaign — one of those times where you can’t quite put your finger on why your sense of humor has completely failed you.

    Since we DO know the history of women in marathons, I can’t help but see it as patronizing and misogynistic.

  2. Sad and disappointed that when I called Competitor Group I was told it was a “new, fun little marketing campaign”. 

    I loved the 80’s – but not again in the 2012.  Oh yes, I want men to learn how to meet me when I run.  

    The bigger this story gets with RnR – the more sad I become.  I no longer have the energy to be mad.  I just shake my head and grateful that RnR will never get another penny of my money. 

  3. I could also see the potential for a fun ‘retro’ campaign, but as soon as it got mired in negative female stereotypes it became offensive.  

  4. Doug Miller says:

    This is silly, and offensive, but I am no huge fan of  mega-races like these. I am wondering why they are marketing these races so heavily, though – aren’t they always selling it out as it is?

    As for the IAAF and marathon rules, I can support them when it comes to world records. You want people setting records to have as equal a chance as possible, and it is possible for a runner as great as Paula Radcliffe to be paced by a faster runner, while a woman running with no men anywhere near her will not have that opportunity. That said, the IAAF does not seem  to have a problem certifying track records run with obvious (and openly hired) “rabbit” runners (i.e., great 800 meter runners who run the first two laps of a 1500 meter run at a faster-than-record pace and then drop out of the race), so how is this different?

    Actually, the IAAF should just say that they will not certify records at marathons at all, because they are all run on different conditions (i.e., there is no standard for elevation gain and loss; records must be out and back courses, so net gain is always the same, but a hillier course will be a harder run than a flatter course.)

    • Carly Z says:

      There’s a photo floating around somewhere of one of the elites (I think Patrick Makau but don’t hold me to that) with a whole entourage of pacers in a marathon…but Paula Radcliffe having one or two people near her negates her entire performance.
      My issue with it is basically what you said-they don’t care about rabbits or conditions unless they are very broad (ie, Boston is not world record eligible due to the net downhill and point to point), but they have this very wide reaching and strong view on female runners. That just feels a bit like they singled out women’s records, rather than cleaning up the entire system.
      That’s my view at least, though I recognize the issues are complex.

      • Doug Miller says:

        Right, I think that the IAAF would have no trouble with Paula Radcliffe having *female* pacers – it’s the unfairness of having male pacers. Female 10,000 meter specialists and half marathon specialists at their best are still no match for the best males, and the difference is still quite huge – over 10 minutes at the marathon, over 3 minutes at 10,000 meters.

        But the IAAF should invalidate male records in races started at the same time as females to be fair.Starting women even as many as 30 minutes early still gives elite men the chance to see and catch up with the slowest female elites at these races. Just the psychological benefit of chasing *somebody* can be beneficial.

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