The Advertising Standards Authority has banned a series of Adidas ads due to their explicit nudity.
To promote the brand’s inclusive range of sports bras, the #SupportIsEverything campaign was created in partnership with TBWA\Neboko and aimed to highlight how just one style of sports bra isn’t suitable for a variety of shapes and sizes.
Adidas tweeted an image that showed the bare breasts of 20 women – cropped to only show the torso – in a grid.
The tweet was captioned: “We believe women’s breasts in all shapes and sizes deserve support and comfort. Which is why our new sports bra range contains 43 styles, so everyone can find the right fit for them.”
Similar images also appeared in the form of two posters. One showed the bare breasts of 62 women with the tagline “The reasons we didn’t make just one new sports bra”, and another showed the same text with images of 64 women but with their nipples pixelated.
Released in February, the campaign received 24 complaints as well as a mixed response from consumers and industry figures.
Complainants said the use of nudity was “gratuitous” and “objectified women by sexualising them and reducing them to body parts”.
In addition, others worried that the posters were not appropriate for public display because they could be seen by children.
In response to the complaints, Adidas said it believed the images were not gratuitous and were “intended to reflect and celebrate different shapes and sizes, illustrate diversity and demonstrate why tailored support bras were important”.
Adidas also claimed the images had been cropped “to protect the identity of the models and to ensure their safety” in response to those saying the images reduced the women to one body part.
TBWA\Neboko submitted the ads to CAP’s Copy Advice team at the brief stage, who had advised that the images were not sexual or objectifying. However, there was risk attached to the use of nudity “especially in untargeted spaces”.
For this reason, Adidas chose not to place the ads near schools or religious venues.
Twitter said that despite Adidas’ tweet being reported by some users, it was organic and not paid-for, so it therefore did not breach its terms of service.
The ASA accepted that the ads’ intentions were to provide an honest representation of women’s breasts, which was relevant to the promotion of the sports bras.
However, the ASA also noted that the breasts were the main focus of the ads and not the bras, which were only referred to in the accompanying text.
Although the censored poster was less explicit, the ASA ruled that the “breasts were still visible and recognisably naked”.
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.”
Therefore, the large posters were deemed unsuitable because they were likely to be seen by people of all ages. The ASA said these ads were “inappropriately targeted, and were likely to cause widespread offence”.
It also ruled that the tweet’s use of explicit nudity “was not in keeping with [Adidas’] usual content” and was also likely to cause widespread offence.
It concluded that the ads must not appear again in the forms complained of due to their explicit nudity. All three ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule (Harm and offence) and the two posters breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule (Social responsibility).
The ASA told Adidas to “ensure their ads did not cause offence and were targeted responsibly”.