Branding Gender in Sport: A Visual-Rhetorical Analysis of the Branding of Roller Derby

Branding a sport has a significant effect on its reception by the public, particularly for sports that are newer or for which consumer awareness is less. Hence, how a sport is positioned to potential spectators will likely play a key role in its success. Roller derby has been a part of American cultural landscape since the 1880’s and took its modern form during the Great depression. Historically, it involved women competing for points circling a flat track, and was primarily target to working class spectators. Over the last few decades, however, roller derby has experienced a resurgence in popularity due to better structural organization through the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) and a repositioning toward a more upscale audience. Part of this repositioning is exhibited in individual portrayal of roller derby participants by using gender-related symbols, which is the subject of this paper.