A Sportspark UEA advertising campaign has been called racist by students who pointed out it could appear to be ranking individuals based on race and gender.
The Bronze plan, which is the cheapest at £5 a month, shows a black woman, the second cheapest Silver plan shows a white woman with grey hair, and the most expensive Gold plan shows a tanned white man.
Dr Tori Cann, a lecturer in Humanities, brought the branding to the attention of scholars and students in a tweet earlier this month.
“Mummy, what is intersectionality?” pic.twitter.com/pYRo82RU71
— Tori Cann (@_canndo) January 2, 2018
The official UEA Sportspark account responded promptly to students expressing distaste towards the image. They said the “campaign has not ranked members” and they have had “minimal comments about any of our membership advertising in the past.”
A Sportspark spokesperson told Concrete: “Sportspark is an inclusive community and we welcome everyone, regardless of gender, race, disability or religion.
“We are disappointed that some customers have interpreted this piece of our advertising as discriminatory, this was completely unintentional.
Hi Tori, we are sorry you feel this way, we will be sure to raise it with our advertsing company to ensure future campaigns can't be misunderstood.
— Sportspark (@SportsparkUEA) January 2, 2018
“This campaign imagery was released eight years ago to display our membership options. The campaign was part of a major rebrand of our logo, marketing collateral and strapline. We have taken all comments on board and will bear them in mind for future campaigns.”
One student told the Sportspark to “Get your act together” on social media, whilst others said they were confused the branding had ever been approved.
UEA Feminist Society criticised the leaflet’s images.
They said: “The Sportspark leaflet is rightly under scrutiny – it raises serious questions. Firstly, why did their marketing associates think it appropriate to use a photograph of a black woman to represent the most affordable membership, and a white man to represent the most expensive?
“All parts of UEA ought to be inclusive and diverse, and indeed the SU has endeavoured to make sports more accessible. The message of this leaflet is entirely contrary to these goals – it is exclusionary and reinforces offensive stereotypes of gender and race.
“UEA Feminist Society call on Sportspark management to take responsibility for the distribution of this leaflet, and to reflect on how it was approved.”
SU Activities and Opportunities Officer Cam Koosyial said: “Whilst the SportsPark have assured us that the obvious problems with this leaflet were unintentional, the research says that marketing matters- and the issue does remind us of some of the inequalities around sport and physical activity at UEA.”
Ms Koosyial said some students face issues when trying to access UEA’s sports facilities. “Part time often mature students don’t get proper student memberships, postgraduate and placement students struggle to access supposedly ‘student friendly’ times.
“Women and BME students are much less likely to get involved,” she said.
“That’s why we’ve been lobbying for a proper inclusion plan as part of the forthcoming UEA Sport Strategy so that all of us can benefit.”
The Sportspark said there were no plans to change or discontinue the advertising campaign at present. However, a spokesperson said they would “continue to listen to feedback”.