Adidas score own goal with Brazil 2014 World Cup tee-shirts


A pair of 2014 World Cup tee-shirts has landed sportswear giant Adidas in hot water after Brazil objected to the sexualisation of its image in the run up to the sporting event – of which Adidas is a major sponsor. Cue PR crisis and uproar on social media!

I’m not sure what makes you a PR Crisis Expert, however I do have that tee-shirt from BBC 5 Live and in recent months have spoken about problems as diverse as the Co-op’s ‘Crystal Methodist’ Paul Flowers, the NHS and today on the breakfast show it was Adidas.

There is a certain inevitability of stories like this and with the enthusiasm for the Winter Olympics at Sochi thawing the focus will soon switch to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and Adidas has made an early run for most spectacular own goal by creating these woefully predictable and stereotypical tee-shirts.

I was chatting to BBC 5 Live Sport presenter Adam Parsons and recalled that back when I was at school Adidas stood for ‘All Day I Dream About Sex’, which is presumably what the designer who created these tee-shirts was doing.

I suspect they went through on the nod from some small department and were anticipated to sell in sufficient numbers to make it worth manufacturing them. If they sold they’d make more and if they didn’t they would bin them. No-one considered this might happen.

And what has happened? Brazil complains, Adidas withdraws the tee-shirts and everyone gets briefly excited, but not convinced this will capture the imaginations – not least as the tee-shirts were not being worn by models or anyone famous.

I think the BBC may have been hoping I would predict this will be The Next Big Thing in social media disasters, but honestly I do not think it will and honestly, I cannot see Adidas losing much sleep over this own goal and a quick search on Twitter doesn’t show this has been embraced in the way some problems are. Of course, it could soon be trending as it does have the ‘sex’ factor which does excite many of those adept at making the most of 140 characters.

What is the lesson here? Swift action has mitigated the fallout for Adidas for sure and they haven’t at this stage put up a spokesperson, which is why the BBC is talking to a PR Crisis Expert such as myself. Nor is Brazil so while it is not necessarily wise to only issue a statement, in this circumstance it has limited the story.

A word of caution and one that I shared on air; Brazil is fighting hard to combat its sex tourism image which is why it challenged these tee-shirts. However, in doing so it raises interest in looking more closely at how the country prepares for the World Cup and a quick Google search reveals plenty of stories far more damaging than these tee-shirts for Brazil’s reputation.
What do you think about the Adidas tee-shirts? Tell us in the comments below?