July 31, 2014 at 11:36 AM ET
Don't burn your bra. Buy a sports bra.
The latest brand trying to start up a global conversation with women about female empowerment isn't a soap, cleanser, or tampon. No, it's jock apparel brand Under Armour, and its new ad stars a ballerina.
But just because the athletic clothing company is trying to appeal to the ladies doesn't mean it's showing a softer side. The ad features the muscular and sinewy Misty Copeland, 31, who is only the third-ever African American female soloist for the American Ballet Theatre. She's ditched the tutu and leotard for a taut tank top and underwear ensemble called Pure Stretch Cheeky, one of the styles the macho brand wants to start selling to women.
As Copeland delivers a beautiful and athletically intense solo routine, a voiceover reads a rejection letter telling a 13-year old girl she wasn't accepted into a ballet academy for having the wrong kind of body. Misty herself only started ballet at the age of 13, overcoming custodial battles between her parents and dance teachers as she rose to national prominence.
The ad ends with Copeland smiling directly into the camera. The screen goes to black with the Under Armour logo. Beneath it appears the caption, "I WILL WHAT I WANT."
Selling to women using uplifting "girl power" and talk of "starting a conversation" has nearly become a hack gimmick as of late. We've had Dove, which started Dove Campaign for Real Beauty in the ancient times of 2004, GoldieBlox, HelloFlo, Always and others. (Dove is a sponsor of TODAY’s #LoveYourSelfie series.)
But critics say the Under Armour spots strike a new note.
“It doesn’t feel forced and manipulated and the same old, ‘We can do it, gals,’ sort of thing, and it’s not like another Dove commercial promising you confidence,” advertising columnist Barbara Lippert told the New York Times.
The new spot should avoid the criticism leveled at a recent ad for Free People clothing, which also used a performer in point shoes in a dance studio to and an uplifting message for women to push its products. At least this one has a bonafide ballerina.