Female Road Running and the Media

在文檔中 女生跑起來! 企業、媒體與路跑中的女性 - 政大學術集成 (頁 90-100)

4.2 Shaping Taiwan’s Female Road Running Scene

4.2.3 Female Road Running and the Media

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4.2.3 Female road running and the media

From the perspective of media and sporting goods manufacturer that jointly

generate women road running, the appearance of the stylish road running magazine

Running Life has a close connection with Taiwan’s female road running scene. In

contrast to masculine sports magazines, Running Life shows a refreshing transparency

in terms of design, paper selection, color, and composition. It is hard to believe that

Running Life was once intended to be developed as a general magazine that included

many fields, as reported by its editor (interviewee M1). As its targeted readership was

once unclear and the conditions under which it had to survive were harsh, the magazine

was compelled to reinvent itself as a road running magazine, especially owing to the

demand of sporting goods manufacturers (Nike, Adidas).

The manager of WongHe PR & Marketing (interviewee RO1) reports that in the

Greater China region, Taiwan was the earliest and most influential place in which Nike

developed road racing. After the first female road running race in 2011, the next three

years were dedicated to gradually cultivating a basic customer group and

communicating the concept of correct exercise. In 2014, Taiwan Nike female road

running officially expanded from a ten kilometers fun run to a twenty-one kilometers

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half-marathon. The number of participants increased from 7000 to 18000 people. Nike

has been the main protagonist of Running Life since its first issue in 2013, such that

Running Life has become an important medium for Nike to promote female road

running. By 2016, of the already published fourteen volumes, there were two special

issues of Nike female road racing, and seven of the other twelve volumes pictured

women on their front covers. While product placement accounts for half of the

magazine content, Running Life and sporting goods manufacturers plan to lead

Taiwanese female road runners to a new form of exercise and lifestyle.

In an interview, the editor of Running Life (interviewee M1) mentioned his

disappointment and dissatisfaction at the lack of design and beauty in Taiwan’s

magazines. This was one of the reasons that his magazine was attempting to do

something different from traditional sports magazines. In particular, it was attempting

to follow Number Do, a road running magazine under the Japanese sports illustrating

magazine Number. Describing Number Do, the editor of Running Life (interviewee

M1) characterized it as, “beautiful, with interesting topics, and a strong sense of life”.

The chief editor of Taiwan’s life magazine One Day, Huang Wei-Rong(黃威融), once

said that Number has a unique style and impressive content and composition. By

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comparison, the reason Taiwan’s magazine is missing this sense of beauty might be

the fault of its realistic style, as the editing clearly seeks to share information as a

priority (黃威融 Huang Wei-Rong, 2015). From Number Do’s twenty-fifth cover,

more clues might be seen. Different from traditional sports magazines that use male

athletes on the cover, Number Do uses hand-drawn pictures to present its theme. The

feet of the runner step on an urban Tokyo, making them look much bigger than Tokyo

Tower and other buildings, almost as if the runner is dominating Tokyo. This looks

really interesting. From the clean composition, vigorous font, and bright colors of

Number Do, we can sense a design and lifestyle that is different from other traditional

sports magazines.

Beginning as an emulation of Number Do, Running Life has ensured its uniqueness

among Taiwanese sports magazines. This has been achieved by combining the pursuit

of beauty, design and life with sports. The combination of sport and life is concretely

presented in two basic themes: eating (sharing recipes, introducing restaurants, and

nutrition analysis of food) and clothing (sportswear matching, the latest apparel). Thus,

the pursuit of beauty and design in Running Life are the tricks of sporting goods

manufacturers. Through advertising, Running Life aims to attract more women to the

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road running product market.

Figure 10. The 25th front cover of Number Do

The editor of Running Life (interviewee M1) claims that the “magazine itself does

not focus on a specific gender, but articles about women often appear because they

belong to the customer group that sporting goods manufacturers target”. Moreover,

Running Life chooses to report easy, basic, and interesting content, intended to cater to

those female readers who are beginners and not very familiar with running. In addition,

the three editors place reference to merchandise into readable content according to the

season. For example, merchandise will be mentioned via a meaningful story, or

personal interviews. In this way, road racing has become an extremely fashionable

sports event to which it is easy to become attached. Though the commercialization of

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road running might once have symbolized social status, it has been extended into a new

sports field, such that the possibility of women exploring the pleasurable activity of

running is increased (Whitson, 2002). It has also completely flipped the public’s

impression of road running, especially among women.

Apart from sports media, such as Running Life, fashion media is another focus of

sporting goods manufacturers. The manager of WongHe PR & Marketing (interviewee

RO1) has noted that “when there are road races, Nike will invite the editors of

magazines that women tend to read, such as Vogue, Elle and LoveGirl(愛女生), and

offer them free road running, pre-race training, or the opportunity to participate in

foreign road running events”. Nominally, this step aims to obtain service feedback, but

in fact it is designed for fashion media producers to record their half-marathon training,

and the way in which fashion magazine editors dress up. “Fashion”, therefore, has a

close connection with Nike female road running. In other words, sporting goods

manufacturers are trying to make a “sense of fashion” that relates to female road

running, including via endorsement by celebrities.

The influence of celebrities in the realm of social media has been another focus

of sporting goods manufacturers as they promote female road running. Social media

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tends to be more influential than traditional paper media, especially because of its

facilitation of instant interaction. Through collaboration with celebrities from different

occupations, Nike can use what it terms “friendly influencers”. Providing them with

free running gadgets, professional coaches and training lectures, they produce

related-contents and post on social media (mainly Facebook) in return. However, Nike has

been trying to keep some distance from these influencers.As the manager of WongHe

PR & Marketing (interviewee RO1) says, these influencers cannot count as Nike

endorsement because they are not athletes. On the other hand, she emphasizes that

Nike encourages friendly influencers to share their experiences social media, just not

forcefully. Nevertheless, we can see that Nike is trying its best to attract people from

all walks of life. Among its influencers, the female celebrity Gin Oy and her running

crew, the Amazing Crew have been most successful.

In the previous discourse analysis, we have seen that Gin Oy is a woman that has

risen from the ashes and adopted a new appearance. However, Gin Oy, a prominent

figure in Taiwan’s female road running scene, should give credit to Nike’s cultivation,

including its gift of running gadgets and training supplies, and its encouragement to

participate in international marathons. Nike’s help has allowed Gin Oy to accumulate

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enough personal capital to publish Taiwan’s first female road running book. Beyond

the running track, Gin Oy manages her own media presence via Facebook. By June

2016, she had reached 420,000 fans, thus strengthening her position as the leading

female runner in Taiwan. After her phenomenal success, Nike sponsored Gin Oy and

six of her friends to compose a road running team named the Amazing Crew. The

Amazing Crew’s members have their own identities, including a famous internet

celebrity, a shoes website editor, a leader of a bicycle group, a fashion designer, and a

prestigious sports anchor. The team is a combination of three men and four women

(Runnn, 2015).

According to my observation, since the Amazing Crew was founded in 2013,

most of its social media contents have related to Nike, including live-recorded Nike

road running events, running software, applications for recording running tracks, and

Nike training courses. The point is that all of the page’s gadgets and clothing feature

the Nike swoosh and are attempting to place Nike’s products. It is clear that after

shaping Gin Oy as the iconic figure, Nike has tried to utilize the diversity of the six

Amazing Crew members. Different careers and ages means that female runners can

find their own road running idol, while at the same time being stimulated to purchase

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products that they see on the fan page.

By contrast, Mizuno does not have such a comprehensive media communication

strategy as Nike and has not cultivated its own media influencers. Mizuno’s female

road race representative of the year is a female celebrity called Wong, Zi-Man(翁滋

蔓), and a female sports anchor called Chien, I-Chia(簡懿佳), who both have less

influence and reputation than Gin Oy. Mizuno’s exposure in sport magazines is

relatively little, the company instead focusing mainly on the Running Biji website,

newspapers, advertising content on social media, and the management of Mizuno

Lady’s Running via a fan page. The general manager of AimHit (interviewee, RO2)

thinks that the difference between the media marketing strategies of Mizuno and Nike

is related to the contrasting number of races they hold. Female road running is just one

of the races among various races that Mizuno holds. However, Nike only has one road

race a year and it focuses on women. Therefore, Nike needs to be more accurate when

communicating with its target customers. Apart from the difference between the

number of road running races held, there are differences in the media marketing

budgets of the sporting goods manufacturers, which can affect their media marketing

strategies. The manager of Delicacy Integrated Marketing (interviewee, RO4) has

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disclosed that because of budget constraints, Mizuno has put more effort into arranging

race themes and the design of finishing gifts. After evaluating the value of media

promotion, Mizuno has decided to focus on media which the target-customer can

access often. This is why it has concentrated on few media outlets.

Overall, Nike and Running Life are the main leaders of Taiwan’s female road

running scene, and responsible for turning the sport into a fashionable lifestyle. Female

road running and traditional media (magazines) still have a close connection with each

other. In the digital era, “celebrities” have created a sports media complex that is

different from before via social media. Sport is now more easily and more subtly

blended into our life, but the process has been difficult to detect. Relying on the high

penetration and high interactivity of social media, celebrities can be more persuasive

than the traditional media by using outlets they manage themselves.

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Chapter Five: Conclusions

The core question raised at the beginning of this thesis is why the phenomenon of

“for females only” road running has emerged in Taiwan since 2011. Examining the

media representation of female runners, and how other road running related actors have

intended to co-construct female road running, is the main aim of this research.

This study demonstrates that Taiwanese female road running publications

represent women with a bright, vivid image, thereby lauding a highly feminine body

aesthetic. Female runners are looking for a balance between masculinity and femininity,

through discipline one’s body to pursuit certain body curve. Despite the fact that gender

power relationships still conform to traditional gender characteristics, road running has

become a field for the self-empowerment of Taiwanese women.

Further, the fact that sporting goods manufacturers have chosen road running and

targeted women in particular is not a coincidence, but involves a series of

contextualized factors that the previous chapter has analyzed, including the

self-positioning of sporting goods manufacturers, marketing strategies that explore the new

market, the flexible use of new media, and new technology. At the same time, it is also

important to investigate the role of other actors by asking questions like, how do road

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running organizers understand female road running? What is their imagination of

female runners? What is the proportion of different sponsors in female road running?

What is the concern of media producers when they produce media content?

Accordingly, by examining media representation, market manipulation by the

sporting goods manufacturers, business powers, and the three actors’ mutual

interweaving, this research attempts to give some explanations for and criticisms of the

female road running culture that has recently emerged in Taiwan.

在文檔中 女生跑起來! 企業、媒體與路跑中的女性 - 政大學術集成 (頁 90-100)