Is this Adidas’ ‘Bud Light moment’? Row over ‘man modelling a woman’s swimsuit’ continues as fans vow to ‘boycott woke companies out of existence’ amid calls to burn Gazelles in protest
- One fan said they would wear their ‘new Gazelles with shame’ amid boycott calls
Adidas could be facing its ‘Bud Light moment’ as calls to boycott the brand continue in a row over its use of a biologically male model to promote a women’s swimsuit in its ‘Pride 2023’ collection.
The sportswear giant provoked fury from fans who accused it of making a ‘mockery’ of women when it unveiled an advert for the £50 swimsuit which forms part of its campaign to ‘uphold inclusive values’.
But disenfranchised fans continued to slam the ‘woke‘ firm today, with some encouraging customers to ‘burn’ their Adidas Gazelle trainers in protest.
One angry fan said the backlash was Adidas’ ‘Bud Light moment’, echoing the debacle the US beer brand faced after it launched an advertising campaign featuring a transgender social media influencer.
Sales of the beer plummeted following the backlash and its parent company Anheuser-Busch saw £2.4bn ($3bn) wiped from its market cap value after its paid partnership with Dylan Mulvaney was revealed at the beginning of April.
Others warned firms who use similar ‘woke’ marketing tactics could be next to face the wrath of consumers.
Among the critics is Olympic legend Sharron Davies MBE who has called for the firm to ‘stop gaslighting women’.
Another said: ‘I will wear my new Gazelle’s with shame… Won’t be buying a bikini though,’ to which the star swimmer said she had ‘bought a new pair of Adidas trainers just last week too.’
This led to another person to post: ‘Burn them’.
Another said that Adidas ‘just had their Bud light moment’, a reference to the plummeting of sales after 26-year-old trans activist Dylan Mulvaney shared an online video of herself dressed like Holly Golightly from Breakfast At Tiffany’s.
In it, she held several customised cans of the beer – one of which featured her face – celebrating her first year of ‘womanhood’. She also posted a video of herself drinking a Bud Light in a bath.
Mulvaney had been paid to promote a challenge in which people could win $15,000 (£12,000) from Bud Light by sending in videos of themselves with the brand’s beers.
But the campaign sparked outrage among conservative social media personalities, who attacked the firm for turning to ‘woke’ advertising.
That followed a separate boycott of Nike earlier in April over its partnership with Mulvaney to promote its female sports clothing range.
Mulvaney posed for a series of pictures and videos promoting the brand’s sports bra and leggings. Mulvaney identifies as a woman and uses the pronouns ‘she/they’ but has not had gender reassignment surgery.
In the latest controversy over so-called ‘woke marketing’, the Adidas swimsuit is modelled by an unidentified model who is described as being 6ft 2in and with a 34inch chest.
South African designer Rich Mnisi is behind the recycled polyester outfit – which Adidas said was a ‘celebration of self-expression, imagination and the unwavering belief that love unites, the collaboration explores fluidity, colour and pattern’.
The brand’s Pride campaign has been promoted by British Olympic diver Tom Daley – but criticism has been led today by former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies who said it was an ‘assault on being female’ and urged Adidas to ‘stop gaslighting women’.
A ‘Boycott Adidas’ hashtag began trending after the campaign launched on Monday in what has become the latest backlash against so-called ‘woke marketing’.
Ms Davies, who has previously spoken out about trans athletes competing against women, tweeted : ‘And yet again a male gets paid to advertise a product that’s vastly aimed at women, who are a physically different shape.
‘Adidas, if you want to design a swimsuit for trans women, right on. They have different needs. But stop gaslighting women.’
She added: ‘It’s more and more moving towards an absolute assault on being female and what that means to women who are having all their descriptive words and rights eroded.’
Helen Joyce, of campaign group Sex Matters, told TalkTV: ‘It’s unbelievable, isn’t it? If there are two places where men and women differ, it’s in sport and it’s in clothing.
‘So why women would want to know what a swimsuit looks like on somebody with a crotch bulge, narrow hips and wide shoulders, and a flat chest is absolutely beyond me.
What does Adidas say about the swimsuit?
This is the Adidas product description for the Rich Mnisi swimsuit online:
‘Let love be your legacy. South African designer Rich Mnisi once wrote that reminder in a handwritten letter to his younger queer self, and today it thrives at the core of the Adidas X Rich Mnisi Pride Collection.
‘A celebration of self-expression, imagination and the unwavering belief that love unites, the collaboration explores fluidity, colour and patterns.
‘This partnership is one part of our effort to honour the LGBTQIA+ community alongside our Global Purpose partner Athlete Ally.
‘We’re all unique, but we’re all connected by love. That’s the message of this Adidas swimsuit, designed in collaboration with Rich Mnisi.
‘The exuberant print brings joyful energy to your day at the beach.’
‘I don’t know many men who would want to wear this swimsuit either. They’re welcome to if they want, but I don’t think they do. So what’s the market?’
Broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer tweeted Adidas to ask: ‘Does the $70 price of this women’s swimsuit include the cost of the sock to stuff down my crotch because, unlike your model, I don’t seem to have a penis to fill out that bulge? And do I have to order the chest hair separately? Please let me know. Thanks.’
She later said on her TalkTV show that the advert was a ‘mockery’ of women and Adidas had become ‘yet another company that I’m going to have to boycott because they don’t respect me or my gender’.
In a description accompanying the product online, Adidas said: ‘Let love be your legacy. South African designer Rich Mnisi once wrote that reminder in a handwritten letter to his younger queer self, and today it thrives at the core of the Adidas X Rich Mnisi Pride Collection.
‘A celebration of self-expression, imagination and the unwavering belief that love unites, the collaboration explores fluidity, colour and patterns. This partnership is one part of our effort to honour the LGBTQIA+ community alongside our Global Purpose partner Athlete Ally.
‘We’re all unique, but we’re all connected by love. That’s the message of this Adidas swimsuit, designed in collaboration with Rich Mnisi. The exuberant print brings joyful energy to your day at the beach.’
Pictures of the designs on Mnisi’s website do not appear to show the biologically male model wearing the suit. Instead, Mnisi uses a woman to pose with other models – including Daley, but he is not seen wearing the women’s swimsuit.
As part of the Adidas campaign, Daley has written a ‘love letter to sport’.
It said: ‘No matter their sexual orientation, gender identity, whatever it is. Every single athlete should be free to love you while loving whoever they want and, most importantly, being true to whoever they are.
‘There is already so much hate in the world, saying what people can and can’t do at certain levels and in certain spaces. The pitch, the field or the pool must be a safe space, the place to game freely.’
When launching the campaign, Mnisi said: ‘In creating this collection, I had a strong impulse to speak to my inner child and express to the world how LGBTQ+ allyship can create a legacy of love.
‘Unifying these themes together through my own visual language and Adidas’s iconic performance and lifestyle pieces is a powerful combination, making the collection a symbol for self-acceptance and LGBTQ+ advocacy.
‘My hope is this range inspires LGBTQ+ allies to speak up more for the queer people they love and not let them fight for acceptance alone.’
Earlier this month Adidas admitted the end of its ‘Yeezy’ collaboration with Kanye West is ‘hurting’ the business as it heads for annual losses of more than £600million.
The sportswear company cut ties with the rapper – known as Ye – in October last year after he made a string of anti-Semitic comments.
That left Adidas with £1billion worth of unsold trainers and other merchandise designed by West under the Yeezy brand – hitting the business hard.
Adidas said losing the highly profitable Yeezy line hit sales in the first quarter of the year by £350million, with North America suffering the most.
With the company racking up a £20million quarterly loss, having made a profit of £271million in the same period last year, chief executive Bjorn Gulden said the loss of Yeezy was ‘of course hurting us’.
Adidas has since announced it will sell off its remaining stock of Yeezy trainers and donate the proceeds to charity.
Adidas has been approached for comment.