More than 1 billion people – 15% of the world’s population – live with disability and that number is rising. As a company, we pride ourselves on a diverse and representative workforce. By 2025, our aim is to be the employer of choice for people with a disability.

This ambition is also shared by our brands who work to ensure that diversity and representation are part of their values, so they best reflect the world we live in and the consumers we serve.

World No.1 deodorant brand Rexona is no exception. It is found in the gym bags and lockers of professional athletes and sports players around the world. But while sporting success is to be celebrated, the brand wants more of us to recognise that taking part in an activity – and trying something new – is praiseworthy too.

“Whether it’s football, dance, athletics, exercise or any other form of movement, everyone should have the right, access and confidence to move more,” says Rexona Senior Brand Manager Emily Heath. “Yet the opportunity to move is not distributed equally,” she adds. “Social, economic, mental and physical barriers stand in the way.”

Making sure access to movement is a more level playing field

“People lack access to movement because of barriers such as cultural expectations and discrimination based on gender, sexuality, race or ability, while others don’t have access to the spaces and places to move freely,” she says.

Levelling that playing field is a key driver of the brand’s new campaign #MoveYourWay.

On International Day of Persons with Disabilities, here are four ways Rexona is working to empower those of all abilities not only to gain access to sport and fitness but also to feel confident and inspired to give moving more a go, on their own terms.

1. Harnessing the power of football to break down barriers

Young girl smiling and practising her football skills

Rexona is partnering with One City Disability, an award-winning programme of football activities run by City in the Community which forms part of Rexona’s partnership with Manchester City Football Club, one of the top sides in the English Premier League. One City Disability’s aim is to ensure that every person who joins the programme is able to participate and develop football skills regardless of their disability or impairment.

More than 2,400 children and young adults take part in the programme each year. Alongside enjoying increased levels of physical activity, those who have taken part said they felt more confident in accessing sporting provisions and made new friends too.

2. Supporting professional athletes and grassroots activities

The Asian Para Games is held every four year after the Asian Games. It’s a multi-sport event regulated by the Asian Paralympic Committee and attracts up to 3,000 athletes who compete across 22 different disciplines. Rexona is its key sponsor.

As well as celebrating the achievements of professional disabled athletes at an international level, Rexona works with local clubs to facilitate activities for people of all abilities.

In Indonesia, Rexona came up with ‘Gerak Tak Terbatas’ (Move Beyond Boundaries), a campaign that invites Indonesian people without exception to move more beyond boundaries,” explains Senior Brand Manager Anggya Kumala. As part of the campaign they launched an app called ‘Gerak by Rexona’ which registers the step count of people from all over Indonesia and converts them into donations towards mobility aids to support disabled societies and clubs.

The brand is also working with charities such as Laureus in the US and Parallel Windsor in the UK. And from 2021 the brand will also be working with more partners to deliver tailored programmes and training that empower young people of all abilities with the confidence and access to move.

3. Representing movement in inclusive ways in our advertising

Rexona ad celebrating people of all abilities enjoying sports activities

#Unstereotyping advertising is a core policy for all Unilever brands. For Rexona this means representing movement in diverse, equitable and inclusive ways. “From our products to our communications, we will ensure diversity and inclusion are embedded at the core of everything we do as we continue to inspire communities of all abilities across the world to move,” Emily says.

4. Sharing lessons and successes of modern diversity champions

Zoom panel of sports influencers discussing movement to celebrate International Day of People with Disabilities

As part of its mission to break down the psychological, physical and societal limits to movement, sport and exercise, Rexona brought together a stellar panel which included influencers from the world of sport to share their lessons on ‘Moving My Way’.

Hosted by UK sports presenter Sophie Morgan, the panel included President of World Athletics Lord Sebastian Coe; South African Paralympian Ntando Mahlangu; American actress and para-snowboarder Amy Purdy; Nakul Gaur, co-chair of Enable, Unilever’s employee support group for colleagues with disabilities and allies; and Aline Santos, EVP, Marketing and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer.

Both Lord Coe and Sophie Morgan recognised sport’s ability to have a lasting impact across society. Ntando Mahlangu experienced this first hand when he competed for South Africa at the Paralympics at the age of 14. “South Africa was not the easiest country to grow up in as a disabled person,” he says. “But I began representing that community of 1 billion people when I competed in the Paralympics at 14. You must tell yourself to look at the bigger picture. You’re representing your country and all the people that believe in you,” he says.

Amy Purdy acknowledged sport’s ability to change people’s perceptions too, especially since her time on the US programme ‘Dancing with the Stars’. “People didn’t know how to react when they would see me walking past them on the street. Now after the programme, people come up and speak to me. It’s changed how they look at people with disabilities,” she says. “When ideas scare me or I’m jumping into a new project, I always say: ‘If not you, then who? If not now, then when?”

Creating visibility around support and assistance was the message from Nakul Gaur. Making reasonable adjustments can lead to more people trying activities and enjoying the benefits. He plays wheelchair basketball with a local team. “I have made some great friends. I have learnt a lot from my team about life. I can’t wait to get back to the court,” he says.

Using the reach of Unilever’s brands can help move the dial too, says Aline Santos. “Unilever brands connect with 2.5 billion people every day. It’s a privilege and a responsibility for us to use this power to inspire people with more inclusive marketing.”

“And not just today on International Day for Persons for Disabilities, but every day,” adds Emily Heath. “Rexona wants everyone to move more. And we will work as a brand to empower everyone with the confidence to move more and to show that it’s not only athletes who can achieve great things every single day.” 

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