Victoria Pendleton, who is going for gold at the Olympics in London this August, is once again the face of a New Year campaign by Hovis to encourage people to get fit and healthy in the year ahead. But is it one that could unwittingly lead the Olympic champion, herself an outspoken critic of sexism in sport, into the minefield that of gender politics surrounding the issue of housework... and specifically, who does it?
In the wake of securing that gold medal at Beijing, Pendleton accused the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and world cycling’s governing body, the UCI, of sexism due to the female track cyclists having fewer events at Beijing than their male counterparts.
That gender imbalance has now been remedied – there will be five events for both men and women at the Olympic Park’s Velodrome this summer, and as well as seeking to retain her individual sprint title, Pendleton is also targeting the team sprint and the keirin.
But at a time when female road cyclists are calling for fairer treatment, the latest campaign by the Premier Foods-owned brand, while a good example of pre-Olympic ambush marketing, risks reinforcing gender stereotypes.
In a video accompanying the launch of a Hovis Facebook app aimed at helping people achieve their fitness goals, the 31-year-old says: “The secret to a healthy lifestyle is not crash diets or marathons from scratch, it’s about setting your own realistic, achievable targets that fit around your lifestyle.”
She goes on to do show women how to achieve that – with stretching exercises while doing the vacuuming, using jars in the kitchen as weights, or getting a good workout while mopping the floor.
Now, market research consistently proves that women are much more likely than men to undertake household chores in the first place, and also to spend more time on them.
Factor in childcare responsibilities among those with children and perhaps the demands of a job too, and it can be difficult to find time to exercise.
Incorporating a fitness regime into aspects of your daily routine can be one way of overcoming those time pressures.
We can’t be alone in thinking, however, that Hovis could have perhaps found a better way of getting that message across.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.