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Viral women’s soccer ad uses doctored footage to prove a point

<i>Frank Fife/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>
Frank Fife/AFP/Getty Images

By Jennifer Korn, CNN

New York (CNN) — One French company is using visual effects editing to promote the Women’s World Cup, putting out a now-viral video showing the French men’s soccer team playing at their best — until it is revealed that the footage is actually of the French women’s team.

Using some of France’s biggest sportsmen like Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann, telecom company Orange shows viewers a sizzle reel of the athletes playing for the first half of the two-minute video before showing that the footage is entirely doctored. What first looks like Griezmann evading a defender dribbling down the field is actually a graphic overlay of Sakina Karchaoui, a professional player on the French women’s national team. The second half of the ad shows the original footage — with France’s top female soccer players owning the field.

“At Orange, when we support les Bleus, we support les Bleues,” the advertisement reads, referring to the widely used nicknames for both the French men’s and women’s national teams.

The ad was posted in June, ahead of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup taking place across Australia and New Zealand.

The ad was produced by advertising agency Marcel and garnered attention for its technical effects and larger message ahead of the tournament’s first game on Thursday.

“For the majority of soccer fans (and that’s the problem), the general consensus is that ‘men’s soccer is better, faster, more interesting than women’s.’ We also know that soccer videos have a great success online,” an Orange spokesperson told CNN over email. For their campaign, “it was essential that during the first half of the video, viewers would think they were enjoying male actions and the only way to make believe that was to… reshape women into men!”

Female soccer players have long been subjected to inferior treatment compared to their male counterparts, facing significantly lower pay and public interest.

Soccer players at the 2023 Women’s World Cup will on average earn just 25 cents for every dollar earned by men at their World Cup last year, a new CNN analysis found. The profound wage gap is a steep improvement from 2019’s games, when the women were making less than eight cents per dollar, according to data provided by world governing body FIFA and global players’ union FIFPRO.

FIFA announced in June that, for the first time, about $49 million of the record $110 million Women’s World Cup prize money would go directly to individual players — at least $30,000 each for participating and $270,000 to each player on the winning squad. FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in March that the association was embarking on a “historic journey for women’s football and for equality,” adding that the aim was equality in payments for the men’s and women’s World Cups in 2026 and 2027 respectively.

For all the practical barriers to gender equality including pay, viewership, ad revenue, poorer facilities and fewer opportunities, it is “sexist attitudes” and “shifting the attitudinal barriers that’s the toughest,” former executive director of Women’s Soccer Australia Heather Reid told CNN Sport.

Orange said its ad is intended to support the athletes fighting for equal footing. “We made the observation that women’s soccer is underestimated, less followed and even mocked while the skills of the players are very impressive and matches can bring as much emotion as those of men,” an Orange spokesperson told CNN. “We wanted to rectify the truth and shift these received ideas.”

Reaction to the ad has been positive, according to the company, with players and viewers alike finding the approach moving.

“No spoilers, but this is the cleverest football advert I’ve ever seen,” tweeted one fan.

“Football is football. Sport is sport,” wrote Australian retired soccer player Craig Foster.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Issy Ronald, Antonio Jarne and Krystina Shveda contributed to this report.

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