FFS Adidas, please don’t encourage them.

Posted on January 19, 2015

Adidas’ latest ad has got everything it needs to spread a message of respect and tolerance in a cool edgy package. Yet somehow it ends up encouraging the contempt it tries to ridicule. 

Football is the world game. Its influence is global and its stars are multi-millionaires. They’re not angels and nor should we expect them to be, but there’s no excuse for the vicious abuse and verbal assaults that they often receive on social media. They deserve respect.

Cue Adidas and ‘There will be haters’, an opportunity to reach out on behalf of its stable of galacticos with a message of tolerance and self-respect. A chance to rise above the hate by continuing to play the beautiful game (in their fantastic new Adidas boots). But no, the ad says haters hate famous rich footballers because of the way they “walk, talk, stand up and stand out”. They hate them because they “get all the goals and all the girls.” Finally, they hate their shiny new boots “because they wish they were in them”. Seriously? Holy crap. This isn’t rising above hate, it’s encouraging it.

The ad ends with a montage of footballer trophies, not just the sporting kind, but the bling –  the cars, the lifestyle, the women – the very things that distance them from the fans. At a time when much of the public is concerned about the extremities of the game, this ad reminds us why – the brazen sense of privilege, superiority and entitlement. In England, football is still embroiled in the sordid Ched Evans saga, a painful reminder of the morals some footballers choose to live by. It might be an isolated incident, but it’s symbolic. Maybe they should append that line ‘they get all the goals and all the girls’ with ‘whether the girls are too shitfaced to consent or not’.

And what about Adidas’ commitment to, quote, ‘drive forward development in a wide variety of areas such as gender’? A suggestive shot of a fighter jet through a pair of long female legs in high heels won’t do much for that. Girls play football too. And what about Suarez? Yes, he got punished and served his ban. But he bit someone. Twice. In a criminal court he would have been convicted of assault. Adidas has paid handsomely for these players, but a little self-awareness and humility in using them wouldn’t go amiss.

Adidas is clearly trying to create a space for their brand in a fiercely competitive global sports market that is still dominated by Nike (brand value US$19 billion versus Adidas at US$5.8 billion). They’ve gone for a bold, edgy, in your face strategy to create some differentiation from Nike’s ownership of inspiration and innovation but they’ve chosen a delivery that millions of impressionable young men will see as an endorsement of indifference and arrogance. They’ve taken a positive and made it negative.

The haters are wrong – they’re jealous and bitter. The abuse they hand out is unacceptable and Adidas is right to call them out. However, instead of sending a message of self-respect and tolerance it has chosen to say a collective fuck you on behalf of its sponsored players.

Suffice to say millions of young men will love it because it’s exciting, dynamic and full of attitude. It’s also brilliantly made and is probably bang on brief, which a quick glance of the hero worship in the comments below the ad will confirm. Perhaps it doesn’t matter because I’m not the target audience and if it sells more boots, I doubt Adidas will care either. However, Adidas has missed a fabulous opportunity to do something so much more positive with it. And that’s a real shame.

 

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