Ashley Fiolek, a young motocross superstar who, by the way, is deaf, was recently recognised at the 2010 Courage in Sports Awards for her achievements and efforts in action sports and charitable work within the deaf community. Known in motocross circles as the Dirtbike Princess, Ashley is sponsored by, and stars in this breathtaking and, in the end, surprising ReBull commercial.
From Redbull: Off the racetrack, Fiolek became an ambassador for women’s action sports, and more importantly a hero and leader to thousands in the deaf community. Extremely active within the community, Ashley regularly visits schools for the deaf to meet with young people, and even puts on riding shows for her new fans on occasion. Fiolek has shown so many with disadvantages just like hers that any obstacle can be tackled.
Did you have to watch it twice? The first time I saw the commercial I had to – thankfully I have a DVR. Whoa there were a couple of surprises that caught me off guard. First, although I shouldn’t have, when I first saw the helmeted athlete, I instantly thought this person was a man, so when Ashley revealed herself as the rider I was impressed. I’m not a follower, but I would suspect motocross is traditionally a male dominated sport – so this petite blond woman making an appearance would be a surprise for most people unfamiliar with dirt-bike racing. If you are not watching close enough you might miss what she does next…or more importantly doesn’t do. No celebratory victory cheer or vocal endorsement of her sponsor brand. Ashley confidently and literally signs off the commercial with American Sign Language.
This powerful moment in storytelling got me to thinking about starting this blog. Is it a good thing that I was surprised a disabled person was featured as the lone celebrity endorser in a commercial? I never think twice when I see other minorities in advertising, so why should this be an exception? Right now I don’t have more answers, but hopefully together we can dig into advertising and disability.