Do Skechers ads lead girls down the wrong path?

Posted by Paladin on July 24, 2011

For more than two years, Skechers® has promoted their Shape-ups sneakers as the solution for adults looking to shed extra pounds and tone their lower body. Popular ads featuring celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Brooke Burke, as well as athletes like Karl Malone, have filled the airwaves. However, the company recently launched a line of Shape-ups for girls, and both the product and the accompanying marketing campaign have drawn the ire of some parents.

Toning touted by toons

The new Shape-ups for girls come in an array of bright colors, complete with hearts and glitter. The sneakers, available in sizes 2-6, are designed to appeal to girls between the ages of 7 and 12.

The new sneakers have appeared in a commercial on children’s channels like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. In the advertisement, a group of cartoon girls sing about the benefits of wearing Shape-ups, remarking they’re “looking good and having fun.” At one point, one of the girls is chased by boys dressed as fattening foods like hot dogs, cupcakes and ice-cream — alluding to the fact that looking good and having fun means not partaking in these unhealthy snacks.

Does the commercial step over the line…

Is the commercial sending the wrong message to young girls? Many parents seem to think so. An online petition urging Skechers to discontinue the product has more than 8,000 signatures to date.

Organizers of the petition claim Skechers is preying on the insecurities of young girls — 80 percent of all 10-year old girls are afraid of getting fat according to the Eating Order Foundation. They believe that placing an emphasis on body image and toning is dangerous and stokes the fears of these young, impressionable girls.

…or is it sending a healthy message?

Skechers president Leonard Armato defended the product, saying the sneakers merely encourage young girls to move around rather than sit at home and eat junk food. He likened the campaign to Michelle Obama’s “Lets Move” exercise and nutrition initiative.

Furthermore, Skechers representatives and proponents of Shape-ups for girls point out that the commercial doesn’t say anything about toning. They insist that the messaging differs greatly from marketing geared towards adults with no mention of legs or bottoms.

What’s the next step?

Though many would agree that promoting healthy lifestyles for children is important, a toning sneaker for girls has proven to be a polarizing product.

The company claims its intentions are good and the sneakers can help young girls achieve better health. Critics counter that if Skechers was truly committed to the health and well-being of young people then they would offer Shape-ups for both girls and boys. In the end, it will be interesting to see which side, if any, gains any traction.

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