Adidas sports bra ads banned in UK for objectifying women

An Adidas campaign featuring dozens of sets of breasts to promote the diversity of its range of sports bras has been banned by the UK advertising watchdog for using explicit nudity and appearing where children could see the ads.

The campaign, versions of which ran on Twitter and select large poster sites, prompted 24 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that the ads were gratuitous, objectified women by “sexualising them and reducing them to body parts”, were harmful and offensive and were able to be seen by children.

Adidas UK defended the images, saying they were not gratuitous or sexual but were intended to “reflect and celebrate different shapes and sizes and illustrate diversity”.

The sportswear company said the images had been cropped to protect the identity of the models, and that they had all volunteered and were supportive of the campaign’s aims.

Adidas added that it had not run the ads on posters or billboards near schools or religious venues, and did not think the campaign would cause harm or distress to children.

The ASA said the depiction of naked breasts, including in one ad where pixellation was used to blur the nipples of the models, was “likely to be seen as explicit nudity”.

“We noted the breasts were the main focus in the ads, and there was less emphasis on the bras themselves, which were only referred to in the accompanying text,” the ASA said. “As the ads contained explicit nudity, we considered that they required careful targeting to avoid causing offence to those who viewed them.”

The ASA said the large poster sites were not targeted and could be seen by people of all ages, including children, and the ads were therefore likely to cause widespread offence. The use of the ad on the Adidas Twitter feed was not in keeping with the usual content posted, the ASA said, and also likely to offend.

“The ads must not appear again in the forms complained of,” ruled the ASA. “We told Adidas UK to ensure their ads did not cause offence and were targeted responsibly.”

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