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Selling Sexy - Naked Rowers Make Better Sport

posted Jul 30, 2014, 6:37 AM by Harry Hawk   [ updated Jan 10, 2015, 7:31 PM ]

Everyone know that sex and sexy sells. 
Example: decades of posters, calendars and advertising have often included photos and illustrations of younger, attractive often busty women. Learn how Angus Malcolm and the Naked Rowers have used nudity and social media to engage, influence, and tell a very unique story about sports and inclusion while raising "nearly £100,000".
 Listen to my Interview with Angus from July 2014; download the MP3 file  [Auto Play] (presented as part of the Interview Series on the FIR podcast network). 

My interview with Angus Malcolm

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Image from the 2013 Warwick Rowers Calendar showing for naked men standing in a field.

Naked Men? Yes.
The male, mostly straight rowing crew at the University of Warwick have turned this traditional on it's head. First to raise funds to keep their "cash strapped" club afloat, but now to increasingly raise money to fight off homophobia in sports. The first time Angus Malcolm uploaded images from one of their shoots "within 24 hours it generated over 36k downloads." A "making of" trailer from their 2014 effort generated more millions of downloads from at least "1.5 million unique viewers." Angus is the photographer on all of the Warwick Rowers photos below.

An image of two men with well defined abdominal muscles stand naked in a field. Image from the official Twitter account for the Warwick Naked Rowers @naked_rowers
Angus Malcolm, the producer of the Naked Rowers Calendar notes, "The tradition of the naked college calendar" does exist in the United Kingdom. A quick Google search turned up a mix of naked men, women and coed charity calendars from Universities in Oxford, Bristol, NottinghamSheffield, Liverpool, Kingston, Exeter, Aberdeen, Birmingham, and Cardiff. Sheffield Hallam University's Men's Rugby Union has produced naked charity calendars since 2001 yet has a Twitter page with 858 followers. In contrast the Naked Rowers have nearly 22k followers and 15k Likes on Facebook.
Nude members of the Warwick University Rowing team in a field holding their oars vertically some members sitting on the shoulders of their teammates.

The Warwick Rowers Prove Organic Reach Works
Now in it's 6th year, Mr. Malcolm who has a long history working with non-profits as a professional communicator, attributes the success of the Naked Rowers calendar to many factors including:

  • "Give people what they want"
  • "Produce high quality content"
  • "Be relevant to the people who support you"
  • "Openness of the mostly straight rowers who are comfortable being naked [for a cause]"
  • The power of organic reach: "we don't pay for promotion"
  • "The project is student run but it isn't amateur"
two naked men tackle each other in the water as part of the Warwick Naked Rowers Charity Calendar. Take from the Twitter feed of the @Naked_Rowers
Two naked young men lay on the water's edge of a short pier one man's foot touches the water while his other foot almost touches the foot of the other man. Taken from the Twitter account of the Naked Rowers @Naked_Rowers

Naked Straight Men Allied with Gay Men to Fight Homophobia
Mr. Malcolm and the members of the crew have have achieved a very diverse set of goals:

  • The club's funding is on solid footing. 
  • The professional "broadcast" quality content has been picked up around the world
    including The E Network and Good Morning America.
  • Together with the the accounting firm of EY, The Warwick Rowers have created Sports Allies.

Why Sports Allies?
The Naked Rowers were looking to give back more to the community that funded them and along with EY the students created Sport Allies. "The Naked Rowers are not going to be able to fully fund the charity, but their goal is to pump up awareness," says Angus. "Sport Allies is an exciting new initiative to promote inclusion and challenge homophobia and transphobia among young people, using sport as a platform for learning. It has grown out of the international success of the 'Warwick Rowers' calendar project" notes their web site.

The logo for the Sport Allies (www.sportallies.org) a charity raising money to fight homophobia and transphobia

Open-minds, Open Hearts and Healing:
While on it's surface it would seem that all these naked men are simply fodder for the imagination of gay men and some women. Angus points out there are other benefits. The members of the crew have a greater awareness of "the difficulties of processing one's sexual identity in a culture that isn't always accepting," while those donating have commented on the "healing nature" of learning these mostly straight athlete's willingness to create this calendar. Angus notes, "20 or 30 years ago when they were at school, they didn't always find athletes so accepting."

three naked men grapple with a small metal boat with the number URK 007. Taken from the Twitter feed of the Naked Rowers @naked_rowers

I wanted to thank Angus for his efforts with the "Naked Rowers" and for making his time available for this interview. I would also like to thank Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz for including my audio interview as part of their well regarded FIR Interviews Series

Please listen to my interview with Angus. <-- Click to download the MP3 file.

Writen by: Harry Hawk

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More example photos from the Warwick Rowers:
4 nude members of the Warwick Rowers tossing a 5th member into the water

Large number of nude men facing away from the camera from the Warwick Rowing crew

color image of naked men from the WarwickRowers.org

Oxford Blues co-ed example:

For students, two male, two female, all naked, mocking a fencing match on two stairs and a landing. From the 2014 Oxford Blues Naked Charity Calendar
Image of the Oxford Blue Charity Calendar 2014 featuring naked images of male and female students.