Adidas social media debacle produces racist and anti-Semitic tweets

Posted at 10:45 PM, Jul 02, 2019

Adidas has come under fire for a social media campaign which inadvertently led to the sportswear giant tweeting out racist, anti-Semitic and abusive terms to hundreds of thousands of followers.

The company ran a campaign on Monday aimed at promoting its new Arsenal shirt, which generated personalized images of the new product bearing the Twitter usernames of people who liked a promotional tweet.

But the stunt was hijacked by several users who changed their Twitter handles to include offensive terms.

That prompted Adidas’ UK account to send out images of the shirt bearing abusive phrases including the n-word as well as references to the Holocaust.

Others made light of the Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 soccer fans were fatally crushed inside an English stadium in 1989, and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, a British child who went missing in Portugal in 2007.

The handles were followed with a message that read: “This is home. Welcome to the squad,” along with a link to buy the new shirt. Adidas said it was investigating the incident.

The offensive tweets have since been deleted, and many of the users have subsequently been suspended by Twitter.

An Adidas spokesperson told CNN: “As part of our partnership launch with Arsenal we have been made aware of the abuse of a Twitter personalization mechanic created to allow excited fans to get their name on the back of the new jersey.

“Due to a small minority creating offensive versions of this we have immediately turned off the functionality and the Twitter team will be investigating.”

The incident also raises questions about why Twitter users were able to create racist and anti-Semitic handles, some of which appeared to use subtle misspellings in order to avoid detection.

CNN has approached Twitter for comment.

The botched campaign follows similar efforts by other companies which were also hijacked by online trolls.

A Twitter campaign run by the New England Patriots in 2014 led to offensive names being branded on the back of the NFL team’s jersey.

And British snack food company Walkers apologized in 2017 after its Twitter account sent out auto-generated pictures of its ambassador, ex-soccer star Gary Lineker, holding aloft images of serial killer Harold Shipman and Jimmy Savile, a television host who was accused of sexual assault following his death in 2011.