If we are to buy into Kohl’s tag line, this is a brand that promises us to “expect great things”. Well, they have fallen short of great and confused us, to say the least, with their new spring marketing campaign “Shop to Win”, which features female Olympians Dara Torres (swimming), Mia Hamm (soccer) and Lindsey Vonn (skiing). While we have enormous respect and admiration for these three world class female athletes, we are caught somewhere between hiding behind a pillow and shouting “are you kidding me?” when we see their new commercials for Kohl’s. Here’s why…

We’ve seen each of the 3 TV spots: one features Dara (winner of 14 national championships; 12 time Olympic medalist and the first U.S. swimmer to compete in five Olympic Games), the other Lindsey (American alpine ski racer on the U.S. Ski Team; winner of four World Cup championships; first American woman to win the gold medal in downhill skiing; winner of five consecutive World Cup season titles in downhill; etc.) and the last Mia (scored more international goals in her career than any other player, male or female, in the history of U.S. soccer; member of the women’s national team from 1987-2004, during which Team USA won gold at the 2004 Summer Olympics; National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee).

In each commercial, as their impressive sports titles run across the screen, one of the three women is looking directly into the camera, as she describes some variation of her “in the zone” focus, surge of adrenaline, rush of accomplishment and/or emotional victory of “scoring”. You assume they are each talking about their respective experiences with sports, but the punch line is that they are actually delivering these lines to describe their experiences with… shopping.

In Kohl’s own press release announcing the campaign, Julie Gardner, Kohl’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer is quoted as saying, “The campaign depicts shopping as a sport and captures the emotion felt when women search for, and find, great deals for themselves and their families.”

Really Kohl’s? Are you honestly trying to position shopping as a “women’s sport” and attempting to compare the competitive thrill that a disciplined and dedicated athlete experiences after achieving Olympic victory to the emotion that you claim women experience after finding a deal on a “leopard print bag at Kohl’s”? We’re sad for how that demeans the training and performance of these world class athletes as their shopping skills seem to be getting as much glory as their athletic prowess. But, our expressed opinion on the matter has to then go hand in hand with us being equally confused as to why these female Olympians would even sign-up to be a part of this campaign and the message it is promoting. Maybe Dara, Lindsey and Mia really do love bargain shopping as much as the sports they have devoted their lives to? That’s certainly what the commercials want us to believe… we’re just not buying that these particular women do.

What we do like about the campaign is that it shows the strength and femininity of women athletes. This is not something you see very often in advertising or the media. But, the whole “women who shop to win” theme just rubs us the wrong way. Sure, shopping can be fun, especially when you find a deal and save money in the process, but not all women like to do it, despite prevailing stereotypes. More importantly, shopping is NOT a sport and we find it a little ridiculous that a major brand is trying to position it as some sort of competitive activity in which women are physically and emotionally charged up about participating.

What do you think?

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