Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsIn England alone, around 16 million people aged 16 and over play sport at least once a week. These people all benefit from Chemistry - from the equipment, clothing and footwear used, through to the surfaces laid in sports venues. However, it is probably fair to say that the important role of modern synthetic materials in sport is not necessarily recognised and appreciated by those who play it. For example, how many football players realise they are kicking a football with a covering of polyurethane, rather than leather, as leather has a tendency to absorb water causing the ball to become heavy? This activity is an opportunity for us to champion this cause by promoting the positive impact of high-performing polymers in an advertising campaign.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 secondsPick a piece of sports equipment, clothing or footwear of your choice and make a poster to advertise the chemistry behind it. Keep it simple by focusing on the impact of just one modern material, noting the beneficial properties it provides - for example, it may provide lightness, durability, strength and/or flexibility. You could pick cycling, and advertise modern carbon fibre bike frames, or athletics and the modern hard wearing and bouncier polyurethane all-weather tracks, or perhaps the polyamide fluffy outer covering of tennis balls that reduce aerodynamic drag, whilst providing resistance to wear and abrasion. Alternatively, you could focus on how polycarbonate is often used in riding and biking helmets, helping protect riders competing in equestrian and cycling competitions. The choice is yours.

Skip to 1 minute and 41 secondsBe creative and use an eye-catching image and distinctive clear and concise lettering - perhaps a promotional poster for one of your favourite films will inspire you? Make a pdf of your poster, and share with our learning community - it will be interesting to see what you pick! Don't forget to add your reason for picking your 'star material'. Let's show the sports world that Madonna was right when she said that 'we are living in a material world, a material, a material, a material world.'

Advertising polymers

Almost every day you will see a commercial or product placement of some sort. Many companies invest heavily in their marketing and advertising departments in order to promote their products as widely as possible. This holds true for sporting products.

However, even without a budget stretching into the millions of pounds it is possible to create effective and eye-catching advertisements for all sorts of sporting items. Therefore, why not have a go at making your own advert for a product of your choice:

The following items will be required:

  • Paper, pens and other stationary for a hand-drawn poster.
  • Computer with a word processor or similar software.

Choose a product that you use or simply one that you are interested in. Highlight the benefits of your chosen product over competitors and try to encourage people to take up your chosen sport and use the product you are advertising. You could also take a picture and demonstrate where different polymers have been used.

hockey advertising

Remember to upload your advert to see if anyone would want to buy your merchandise. If you’re feeling particularly creative then why not invent a brand new product or company!

Football advertising

When you are done we would love to see your results! Upload a picture of your advert using our open Padlet (we have included examples from a previous course to help inspire you) and/or on Twitter or Instagram hashtag #FLchemistry.

Alternatively, you could come up with a slogan, or short promotional blurb, advertising your polymer and share this in the comments (below). You might like to take inspiration from two popular advertising slogans for ‘plastic’, namely, Mastercard’s clever For Everything Else, There’s MasterCard and Don’t Leave Home Without It from American Express.


For the record

The impact of chemistry in sport is nicely illustrated by the 100 metres sprint. At the Berlin Olympics, in 1936, Jesse Owens ran the race in 10.3 seconds. This is slower than Usain Bolt’s record of 9.58 seconds in 2009. However, Owen’s track surface was made of cinders, he wore heavier and less flexible leather shoes, and his “starting block” consisted of two holes in the cinders that he had to dig with a trowel. According to a biomechanics analysis, if Owens had used a real starting block, worn modern shoes, and run on a rubber-polyurethane surface, he would have been within a single stride of Bolt!

To illustrate the point, this clip shows how a modern sprinter fared on a dirt track with no starting bloc.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

So, without new technology, peak human performance has not increased by that much over the years.

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This video is from the free online course:

Exploring Everyday Chemistry

University of York