View Full Version : National ad campaign ridicules adult swimmers

April 23rd, 2003, 04:35 AM
The Afterschool Alliance (www.afterschoolnow.org), supported by the Ad Council and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, are running a public service ad campaign that appears to ridicule Masters swimmers. According to Alliance’s website, “These PSAs use humor to communicate the importance of taking action to support afterschool programs. The campaign includes TV and radio spots, newspaper ads, billboards, web banners and more.”

One print ad has a facial portrait of a smiling, senior gentleman in a pool, obviously a happy swimmer, with swimming goggles on. Superimposed over the portrait are the following words: “There’s nothing more REFRESHING than neglecting our nation’s YOUTH.” At the bottom, the ad continues to say: “When I don’t support afterschool programs, I feel so relaxed and carefree. It’s like I’m doing nothing at all! Unless you call depriving 15 million kids something…”

You can download a copy of the ad from the following website:

April 23rd, 2003, 09:10 AM
I find it more offensive that the whole campaign is really stupid.

Bill Volckening
April 23rd, 2003, 12:42 PM
Hi Frosty,

Thank-you for bringing this ad campaign to the attention of the Masters swimming community. I hope people will write to the Afterschool Alliance to let them know how they feel about it. The only e-mail address I could find was;



April 23rd, 2003, 01:06 PM
I doubt the intent is to ridicule Masters swimmers -- the "creative minds" behind this campaign probably don't even know we exist. It seems more like a parody of the "lifestyle" ads (for beer, cigarettes, travel) that show 18-20 year olds in similar poses.

But I agree with Shaky -- what's most offensive is that the whole campaign is stupid. It's not even effective as an ad -- it's smug and self-righteous and I can't even tell what the point of it is.

April 23rd, 2003, 01:17 PM
I checked out the ad. It is very ignorant, offensive and misguided. Masters swimmers or even adult lap swimmers are incredible role models for youth. Young people are impressed by swimmers' dedication, efforts, and achievements, and consider making exercise part of a life-long lifestyle for themselves. And sports activities is a good common topic for adults and kids to get excited about. The whole ad doesn't make sense. It's strange to even suggest adults like ignoring positive programs for kids. Not a good way to get anyone on board. And the ad council is paying for this? Weird.

Bill Volckening
April 23rd, 2003, 01:23 PM
I'm with you, effi,

The portrayal of active, healthy adults depriving children of quality afterschool activities by virtue of their participation in physical activities (exercise) is not only offensive, it is terribly misleading. Adults who participate in a regular exercise routine are not only healthier and better able to care for their children, but they also set an excellent example for today's youth. Portraying exercise as a selfish activity is a grave mistake, and I feel strongly that this message is not what we want to communicate to our youth. I am truly shocked that an organization such as the Afterschool Alliance could broadcast such a thoughtless, irresponsible and harmful message.


April 23rd, 2003, 01:34 PM
Afterschool Alliance Washington, DC Office

Afterschool Alliance
1616 H St., NW
Washington, DC 20006

Jen Rinehart, Associate Director
Della Cronin, Program Director

Flint Office

Afterschool Alliance
925 Avon Street
Flint, Michigan 48503

Judy Samelson, Executive Director
Leslie Aguirre, Executive Assistant

Email: info@afterschoolalliance.org

Home Office
Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
Mott Foundation Building
503 S. Saginaw Street, Suite 1200
Flint, Michigan 48502-1851
Phone: (810) 238-5651
Fax: (810) 766-1753
E-mail: info@mott.org

April 23rd, 2003, 01:34 PM
Bill you are very eloquent and expressed my feelings exactly.

Trying to motivate adults into action through the use of shame, whether they are involved in sports or not, is probably the worst way to approach the problem.


April 23rd, 2003, 02:33 PM
I agree with the above posts, the message is unclear, is it effective (well it did get the attention of someone, and has caused some discussion).
The one question remains are we guilty of what the Afterschool Alliance is sarcastically potraying. I'm not talikng about USMS as a whole but as individuals, as part of a community (or several different communities) and even your work (check out the Nike Go program at www.nikebiz.com). I'm sure people are aware of the situation in Oregon (Lampooned in the Doonesbury comic a while back) especially in the Portland area, and I'm sure other areas of the country are faced with some of the same dilemas maybe not as drastic. Several school districts in the Portland area are looking at cutting back days in the school year and also eliminating afterschool sports because of financial shortfalls. To make things worse a lot of the afterschool programs supported by Parks and Recreation Depts are dealing with the same problem, dwindling financial resources compounded with a higher demand because of fewer days that kids are in school.
Which brings me back to the original question, what are we doing about it ? People can volunteer (most noble) but even making yourself available to help out, has anyone offered to help (a swimmer or a high school swim team) just a little bit even 1 hour a week, just a little mentoring could make a big difference in the quality of programming. Even those that make a difference and receive some kind of compensation are at least helping to provide something for those kids and should be commended - sorry for the soap box and like I have said I don't agree with the ads or the potrayals, but look at the facts they were losing ground (programs and money) so if this ad campaign gets even one person to act its done its job.


(as an afterthought, since it seems I may have cast the first stone, yes I do make a differnece in the community for kids both professionaly as a Program manager and sometimes volunteering my time with swimmers/swim teams and in other areas - not just paying my taxes).

Tom Ellison
April 23rd, 2003, 02:42 PM
The add is smug and self-righteous? Please...not in the least….
Sarcasm to the max here Ken....

BV, as I find most of the time in your posts, you hit the nail directly on the head. This add IS offensive, thoughtless, irresponsible and harmful. Gosh, if anything....US Masters Swimmers are poster boys and girls for how people should act. Ok, maybe not boys and girls....how about old men and women...

April 23rd, 2003, 06:13 PM
Is there not a more interesting topic than TV ads? My goodness, the last time I took a TV ad seriously was, well, never. We shouldn't take ourselves so seriously. Imagine how silly we will look if someone finds out we are protesting a TV ad. On the other hand, maybe it would bring in more swimmers.

I hear PETA is protesting the name of a town in NY called Hamburg where the hamburger was allegedly discovered or founded or something. Let's not turn into a band of loonies over a commercial. Older guys in Speedos will never be a topic of great reverence no matter how much we tell ourselves it's a good look.

April 23rd, 2003, 08:36 PM
Emmett, Got your message loud and clear and have written a protest of the ad to the appropriate address. Thanks!

April 24th, 2003, 03:57 PM
I also sent a protest. It looks like a very low-budget operation, which may explain the strange choice of images and slogans.
Jeff: I think a lot of us swimmers support rec and school swimming (and other sports and activities) for our kids and the community--for example serving on the rec team board, doing the volunteer timing, stroke and turn, providing social functions, hiring coaches etc. Swimming parents tend to promote swimming for the entire family, and that ends up translating into huge volunteer contributions to the youth of the community. I don't agree that awareness needs to be raised in the way it was. There are ways to expand conmmunity involvement, but those ads are very negative.

April 24th, 2003, 04:41 PM

I agree that the method of the add is off. Your point about swimmers supporting sports and activities for our kids is the thinking that needs to be looked at. As a parent we need to be active and be an advocate for our childs best interests, but what about those that don't have that support. We can and should be advocates for those children too. That was the point I was making, questioning our motives for helping, going out and helping a program (paid or volunteered) where you have no real ties.
Once again I could care less about the actual adds, the concern they are trying to convey no matter how poorly or offensive is something that needs to be addressed. Whats next New Yorkers being offended because everyone thinks all they say is Yo! because of the visa checkcard commercial.

April 24th, 2003, 07:58 PM
Jeff, I doubt very few of us would argue that our society doesn't need more adults involved with children's after school activities, whether those activities are sports, tutoring or mentoring. However, the ads, which were ment for ADULTS, also send a message to CHILDREN. The campaign is telling children that ADULTS are SELFISH and do not care about CHILDREN. I don't know a single adult who truely doesn't care about children's well being, and doesn't contribute in some way (time or money), but I do know a lot of children who's cognitive development hasn't reached a level yet that they would be able to understand the scarcasm underlying the campaign. Aside from the fact that scarcasm is a very poor motivational factor, it is this disreguard of the impact it might have on children's view of adults that makes the campaign truely objectionable.

S. Elaine Hamilton
School Psychologist

April 24th, 2003, 10:35 PM
Anyway, most people don't understand that swimming is not only for those 6 to 22 years old. That was true back in the 1970's when masters was new but not today. Second, masters or any other program doesn't take the pool away from children. In fact, except for some private county clubs or health club pools, most programs are geared more for children than adults. In Tucson, they have a good balance, on the eastside of town the rec programs in the pool are geared more for adults since the adult population uses the pool more than does children;however on the westside of town children sue the pool more so the program is geared toward children. I think the ad is a little off of reality, in fact many master swimmers are what can be termed middle aged(40 to 59 years old), the parents of many school aged children from grade school to college rather than their grandparents but even so they are of course masters that are seniors and the ad doesn't reflect reality in my opinion.

April 25th, 2003, 01:14 AM
As for Jeff, his state Oregon has one of the highest state debts along with California, New York and my state Arizona, and different states deal with budget problems differently. And as he stated, especially for states that are cutting back on youth programs many of us can help with time and money and volunteering. That's ok.

April 25th, 2003, 04:23 PM
The thing that bothers me most about these advertisements is the assumption that adults owe other people's children, and specifically this organization, their time and/or money. It's as if this group is saying you have a debt to pay that is akin to child support payments, and it seems to regard adults who choose not to volunteer their time much the same as deadbeat dads.

The problem with their mindset is that there is no duty to help anyone. If you choose to help, you do it out of your own desire to give, out of the goodness of your heart (or perhaps out of a desire for self-congratulation, in the case of some--but mostly out of goodness). People will often give gladly of their time and money when asked politely; but to demand it as something they owe will be offensive even to those people who would otherwise jump at the opportunity to do some good.

Where this approach truly fails is that, by treating it as a duty that most are ignoring, it diminishes the value of volunteerism from those who DO choose to give their time. It says to them, "Oh, thanks for the effort, but you were supposed to do it anyway." Under the line of thought they seem to be suggesting, to be justified in being proud of your efforts, you'd have to devote your life to a cause. Those who give of themselves deserve to be held in better regard than that.

Furthermore, this organization's approach ignores all the other worthy causes to which one may devote one's efforts. It seems to say that someone who volunteers for the homeless, works for environmental preservation or builds houses for Habitat for Humanity still hasn't fulfilled his "duty" to children. With the sheer number of organizations that want your time and money, it demonstrates extraordinary arrogance for one group to take this sort of position with the people it wants involved.

I'm disgusted by the whole thing, and like others here I emailed them to tell them so. So far I haven't seen a response; but if the arrogance of their advertisements is any indication, I doubt I will.

April 25th, 2003, 06:18 PM
The stupidest part about the ad is that it's self-defeating -- its arrogance alienates the people who might otherwise be most inclined to support a good cause.

Matt S
April 26th, 2003, 11:23 PM
I've looked at the site in question. I do not think they are singling out swimmers. If you look at all the adds, they seem to be trying to criticize a care-free, "I got mine" attitude. However, I agree with Lainey's point that this stuff is likely to be misunderstood by children and teens who may come across it, and the very negative impression it will make on them is likely to cancel out the positive message we hope they are getting from the dedicated adult volunteers who are in fact working for this and other similar organizations. I'd nominate this ad campaign for the Arianna Huffington Bone-Head PR Award.

There is one theme some folks have raised that I would like to examine a bit. Several have suggested that Masters Swimmers are good role models because kids notice that we have made exercise and fitness a lifetime habbit. Yes, it's a good thing, and a fine example for the teeny-tiny segment of the population under 18 that is aware of Masters swimming. But, are you seriously suggesting that simply showing up for workouts and meets and pursuing your own goals is at all comparable to being a volunteer for youth activities, or other charitable/community volunteer work?! (Oh really, Mr. Affleck/Ms. Lopez? We should all feel uplifted because you two deign to be your cool selves for the rest of us to see?) Even Charles Barkley realizes that being a role model is more than being an accomplished athlete.

Last point, then I'll crawl off my soap-box. Shakey, I see your point about a particular Organzation that feels like the general public OWES it volunteers (or contributions that permit the paid staff to live in the style to which they have become accustomed). However, DARN STRAIGHT you better believe that every adult member of the community is obliged to ensure its youth get a reasonable start. Not everyone can have children, or choose to be parents. It takes a strong stomach to live in the same house with kids, or [shudder] teen-agers. But, if you are planning on living in a community where there are people who are more than a few years younger than you who will: provide emeregency or medical services, take on all those entry level jobs you have left behind in your career, buy your old house when your lifestyle has moved on, provide fresh members to you masters team or YMCA when the old guard drops out or moves away, or pay the taxes that pay for your social security and your other benefits, you'd best be interested in how they are brought up. Put it another way (and I appreciate that you have not suggested that we do any of these things, I'm just pushing the point of "it's not my responsibility" to its illogical extreme): if we shut down their recreational activities for lack of $ or volunteers, if we defund their schools, if we let the wages they earn for their first real jobs fall to the point they work twice as long to live in poverty, if we turn their medical coverage into a joke, if we choke off their opportunities for advancement to the point where they have to "know somebody" to get ahead, if we structure the pension system so it goes backrupt 5 years before they retire, then we should not be surprised if they learn from us (by our actions) the importance of looking out for number 1. Don't count on a comfortable retirement in that case.


Peter Cruise
April 27th, 2003, 03:33 PM
Jeff- I can understand those poor, sensitive New Yorkers re: Yo!, eh?

Dominick Aielloeaver
April 27th, 2003, 08:04 PM
;I wsa a former N.Y.And I swam pretty good in n.ny. But since I moved I got beter. Must Be the ai r. I will be at the nationals. My goal is to have fun. Dom. ;)

April 27th, 2003, 11:28 PM
Now the majority of people either get married or have kids. I'm apart of the minority that did neither. I don't think that we are more ill responsible or more selfish than people that had kids. How many children in the United States are being raise by their grandparents because their own parents have drug problems or are in prison?. Its better to not have children if you don't want to be responible and have sexual relations and not think that children will be a by-product of that sexual union. One of the best ways to help kids is to be responsible about not bringing them in the world if you are unable to deal with them or being more responsible when you do.

April 28th, 2003, 11:44 AM
Just something to think about (this fact is a few years old) it takes about $30,000 to incarcerate a juvenile offender for 1 year (yup that would be your tax dollars). So rather than employing correction officers, wouldn't you rather employ coaches and teachers at a fraction of the cost - so maybe a swim coach is worth $350,000 if he can keep 12 kids out of jail.

April 28th, 2003, 11:44 AM
I can't believe all this discussion about role models and moral obligation comes from a single poster of a man swimming. Actualy, he is just standing in the water. No where does it mention Masters swimming. If the man was holding a baseball bat, would the entire adult softball playing nation be up in arms? It's just a man swimming, that's it. If I saw that poster in public I would never consider it a slight on either swimming or Master's Swimming. Even if I did, so what? People are allowed to advertise and make points. I think this thread is a little far reaching.

April 28th, 2003, 12:18 PM
the thread may indicate that we are discussing the poster of the swimmer, but in reality we are discussing the underlying concept the agency used and society's responsibility to children and youths. I feel rather positive about the responses. The responses show that we (adults) have enough good sense to think critically think about issues. Or could it just be that swimming produces great thinkers :D!

April 28th, 2003, 04:18 PM
Originally posted by aquageek
Actualy, he is just standing in the water... If the man was holding a baseball bat, would the entire adult softball playing nation be up in arms?

If he were holding a baseball bat, I would wonder, "Hey, what's that nut doing with a baseball bat in the pool?":D

April 28th, 2003, 04:51 PM
Hey Shaky,

Your bottom tag line I think holds the answer. :rolleyes:

April 28th, 2003, 07:07 PM
That's why I chose the avatar with a helmet!

April 29th, 2003, 01:18 AM
It would be wonderful if communities took more interested in swimming. But swimming doesn't solved all problems with troubled children or adults. My childhood was not that happy in some ways and I'm not going into detail why?. I found out by age 15, I needed something more about the meaning of life and I use to skipped practice and went to make calls to a hot line and pretend to go into practice. Anyway, I grew up a little more and stop doing that. I wasn't happy in that sometimes with the swimming since there were of course more talented people. However, because no other girl swimmer workout year round at my high school I was the best female swimmer there. Now, I do the swimming mainly for exercise and realized that I lost so much over the years that I will probably not be able to even come within 5 seconds of my childhood times in 100 yard swims. I more like 14 to 25 seconds off depending upon the stroke.

April 29th, 2003, 02:26 PM
Along with the other e-mail, make note that the C.S. Mott Foundation provided the money for the ad campagin. I am sure they do not want their name attached to such irresponsible adds.


Ad council e-mail is listed right below the ads:



April 29th, 2003, 02:34 PM
Open letter to: banners@adcouncil.org, info@afterschoolalliance.org, info@mott.org

Any successful ad needs to clearly communicate its message in a memorable way, better yet if it encourages you act. While I am sure none of us need a lesson in Marketing 101, the recent ads on http://www.afterschoolnow.org/print_ads.cfm fall far, far from that standard.

Showing healthy people leading active lives and then critizing those people for their active lives is hardly appropriate, memorable in a positive light, nor does it encourage me to act. In fact it has the opposite effect in that I would absolutely not be inclined to help such an inflamatory organization.

Clearly the better approach would be to reach out to these active people, encouraging them to share their passions and interests with children. These healthy happy people probably have solid skills/personalities/disiplines you should celebrate. Instead you have polarized yourself from people such as myself.

I hope you vigorously rethink the intent and effect these ads will have on people who lead active lives and are proud of it.

Chris Beardsley