Adidas Controversy: If you’re not sure, take out the breasts.” It’s not a real advertising slogan, but it could be one. Cleavage has always been the best friend of a dull ad man. Flogging fast food? Show a bunch of hot models in bikinis eating burgers. Ice cream from Hawking? Shoot it in slow motion as it runs down a woman’s chest. Do you sell cars? Boobs. Selling insurance for homes? More breasts! You’d have to be a boob not to get the point.
Even though breasts aren’t uncommon in ads, Adidas’s new campaign for its expanded line of sports bras goes to the extreme. Instead of just a little cleavage, the ad shows 25 sets of bare breasts. Some of them are scarred, some are small, and some are saggy, but they are all bare.
Along with the nakedness
There are layers of predictable PR-speak about how Adidas wants to celebrate diversity and show how different modern breasts can be, etc. Frankly, I would have had a lot more respect for the company if it had just said, “It’s not that deep. We know this will get people talking, which means our brand name will get into your head and hopefully lead to more bra sales.”
I don’t know how well the bras are selling, but the strategy to “get people talking” is working. Some people liked the Adidas ad because it made breasts seem less sexual, while others thought it was exploitative. A sociology professor at the University of California at Irvine told the Washington Post, “They are now trying to sell us objectification as if it were freedom.”
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.
— adidas (@adidas) February 9, 2022
It’s a good point, but after a lot of thought (I’ve been thinking about breasts all weekend), the former marketer in me has come to the conclusion that the ad is actually pretty good. Unlike men’s chests, women’s breasts are still sexualized in a ridiculous way. In fact, female nipples are blocked on Instagram because they are so sexualized. Adidas’s ad might be a shameless way to get people’s attention, but I’m fine with anything that makes nipples more common.