Pad times for SixSixOne

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After Sockgate and the Maxxis Babes, body armour company SixSixOne have become the latest mountain bike brand to abruptly withdraw marketing material after receiving a torrent of criticism from social media users about the way it portrays women.

The offending post, which went out on Thursday via SixSixOne’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds, featured a naked woman with her modesty protected only a set of knee pads, with the hashtag “#protectfun”.

661-pads-instagramOutspoken advocate of women’s mountain biking Amanda Batty was one of the first to criticise the post, writing on her Facebook page:

“Oh, LOOK! Another MTB product being sold through the objectification of women and sexual marketing… Yay. What a delightful surprise. What a clever campaign. What work this must have been, coming up with such a ‘shocking’ and ‘alternative’ and ‘bold’ marketing strategy. Jesus. Could you motherf—–s be ANY LAZIER?!”

Her comments were echoed by many other users across various social media sites. Jenn Bouma, posting on SixSixOne’s Facebook page, wrote “How does the following represent women on your team well? How does it help the women on your team inspire young girls who are interested in enduro, MTB and downhill?”

Our own 24/7 manned twitter account chipped in too.

Other commenters were more philosophical, such as designer and aspiring DH racer Monet Adams:

“Representation of female riders was never even considered here, so although the objectification of women in this context is a bit boring and unoriginal, I personally don’t take offence to it as a rider. What does bother me though is – MTB is a grassroots sport with a lot of talent in both the media and riders. Could you not have spent the few hundred dollars you spent on paying this model (you had better have paid her!) to buy some quality photos of your talented grass roots riders? Your customers are not stupid – they buy into brands with stories and context.”

SixSixOne removed the post shortly afterwards and posted an apology on their Instagram and Facebook pages, saying

“Sorry for any offence caused in yesterday’s post, we’ve removed the images from social media. and also removed it from our image library and website. The image does not represent the brand opinion or help support the amazing women of our sport. We want EVERYONE to get stoked on our products, and sharing an out of date non-riding image of a model in our pads was an error. Happy Trails!”

In fairness to SixSixOne they do seem determined to put things right. The first image they posted after removing the offensive one was of a female rider they sponsor, and Sebastian Raymond, SixSixOne’s marketing manager, states “There will definitely be no shooting of that type happening anymore with our new team and no more usage of such photos“.

Meanwhile, the winning comment on the whole sorry affair probably goes to this chap, who took it upon himself to recreate SixSixOne’s photo with himself as the model. Ladies, form an orderly queue…

And finally, what do you think?

[poll id=”597″]

Antony was a latecomer to the joys of riding off-road, and he’s continued to be a late adopter of many of his favourite things, including full suspension, dropper posts, 29ers, and adult responsibility. At some point he decided to compensate for his lack of natural riding talent by organising maintenance days on his local trails. This led, inadvertently, to writing for Singletrack, after one of his online rants about lazy, spoilt mountain bikers who never fix trails was spotted and reprinted on this website during a particularly slow news week. Now based just up the road from the magazine in West Yorkshire, he’s expanded his remit to include reviews and features as well as rants. He’s also moved on from filling holes in the woods to campaigning for changes to the UK’s antiquated land access laws, and probing the relationship between mountain biking and the places we ride. He’s a firm believer in bringing mountain biking to the people, whether that’s through affordable bikes, accessible trails, enabling technology, or supportive networks. He’s also studied sustainable transport, and will happily explain to anyone who’ll listen why the UK is a terrible place for everyday utility cycling, even though it shouldn’t be. If that all sounds a bit worthy, he’s also happy to share tales of rides gone awry, or delicate bike parts burst asunder by ham-fisted maintenance. Because ultimately, there are enough talented professionals in mountain bike journalism, and it needs more rank amateurs.

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Comments (15)

    Well I’m a bloke and that works for me!
    Frankly Matt’s effort is obscene, I Kean I just ate my dinner and all…….bleurgh!

    I meant ‘mean’ and not ‘kean’- bloomin autocorrect.

    Struggling to decide what’s the most annoying, lazy 90’s (not 70’s – 90′ were the era of the lad culture) marketing, or the smactivists who hang about almost waiting to be offended.

    Matt knows the score, was it sexist for women to stick pics on social media of every haif naked bloke they could whilst trying to figure out “who would play Mr Grey” in the fifty shades film?

    Even if it was was there any man who actually gave a whatsit, I highly doubt it.

    Anyone remember the naked mtbers article in MBUK in the 90’s, what would Amanda Batty make of that I wonder…

    The world needs to get a grip in my view, nothing wrong with either of those images. best not use models to advertise anything as its objectification of men, women, children, animals etc

    Am I being overly-cynical in thinking this type of marketing is very deliberate? For every person who is genuinely offended by this I’d hazard a guess there are 10 people who now have the 661 brand in the forefront of their mind. I know I fall into the latter camp.

    (FYI I only clicked on this story cos I thought 661 had gone bust*)

    *no pun intended. Honest

    That’s a question/statement often leveled at this type of story but talking to brand managers it’s not the reality. A brand’s reputation means everything and negative publicity does not equate to good publicity regardless of the old mythical mantra of ‘all publicity is good publicity’. I can assure you that 661 are not happy about all this and I can similarly say the same about the marketing department of Maxxis, (who are currently recruiting for a new marketing communications manager).

    The simple truth is that for most companies bad publicity is bad, which seems dull and boring but is the reality.

    Those bricks that he’s sat on don’t look comfortable…

    “the smactivists who hang about almost waiting to be offended”

    Well, of course, it’s entirely impossible to raise an objection to pretty much anything without someone somewhere immediately claiming that anyone who does so must be “hanging about waiting to be offended”.

    Whether—and why—this image is problematic in the context of mountain biking or society as a whole is a valid and nuanced discussion, and people have offered coherent and rational explanations as to why they believe it is problematic.

    You may or may not agree with others’ rational arguments, but to dismiss them as simply “being offended” only demonstrates a lack of willingness (or ability) to understand them.

    I,m offended the lady has the pads on the wrong knees!

    I showed the picture to my wife, and she wasn’t the least bit offended. And I’ve never had trouble offending her myself…
    Personally, I thought it was daft old fashioned marketing. But, if you do the numbers, a large proportion of MTBers are male, and an even larger proportion of those who buy pads are male, so if this entices even a small proportion of male buyers, it’s a win for them, even if they p*** of the majority of women. Not saying it’s right, but I can see the logic…

    30% of new visitors to this site are women. (That’s out of total visitors each month of 1.6 million as measured by Google).

    Measured by both response to advertising and in actual sales in our own online shop (We have high quality data on both), women are worth twice as much to us per head as men. When all is added up that suggests to me that women, on an individual level, are engaging more (with our brand of mountain biking at least) far more in a commercial sense than men. It would suggest that the women’s market is far more valuable/lucrative than most people think.

    Perhaps this type of marketing isn’t just outdated but also wasting a commercial opportunity? This is all based on our site’s data of course and other sites/markets may differ. But it all hints at least that the women’s market in outdoor activities is growing faster than that of the men.

    Women’s spend overall is still dwarfed by the male market but rest assured, the women are coming. THE WOMEN ARE COMING! 🙂

    Also, I’m rarely ever offended and I certainly don’t find this image offensive. It’s sad and disappointing and doesn’t reflect the fact that mountain biking is a gender neutral market. In my view it perpetuates the message that riding mountain bikes is for men and women should look pretty. Clearly the women in the photo is not a mountain biker (she may be, who knows, but we all know the likeliest scenario is that she’s a professional model paid for this shoot – and by that measure she’s also probably not being exploited and just earning a living). And since she’s not a rider it appears that her function in this image is to be an ornament to hang the product off in a way that suggests she is naked behind the product. It’s done in way that is designed to make most men go, ‘Phwoar! I can imagine her boobs hiding behind those pads’, which, to be fair does work on a very base level. And it’s the fact it’s marketing aimed at the lowest common denominator that makes it disappointing. There’s just so many other ways to do it better that doesn’t portray women as sexy ornaments to hang products off.

    It’s just not a very good concept from start to finish.

    I’m still not offended by it and I don’t have to be to think it shouldn’t have been done or made public by a well known bike brand that makes products for and sponsors riders of both sexes.

    I’m also not angry about it but I do think the only way things change is by highlighting the things that need to change.

    i thought it was just a visual pun using the logo on the pads – a trompe l’oeil if you will. It just wouldn’t have worked with a man as the model.

    They should have done it with both a woman and a bloke.

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