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Adidas sports bra advertisement banned in U.K. for ‘explicit nudity’

An Adidas sign at the entrance to the store on Aug. 12, 2021 in Miami. Getty

A recent Adidas sports bra advertisement has been banned in the United Kingdom after several residents complained the ad used gratuitous nudity to objectify and sexualize women.

In a ruling released Wednesday from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the Adidas campaign — which ran on Twitter and select large poster sites in the U.K. — was banned for using explicit nudity and appearing where children may possibly see the ads.

The Adidas ad featured the cropped torsos of several women with bare breasts displayed in a grid. (NOTE: This link leads to the ad in question, which features nudity. Please visit at your own discretion.) Accompanying the ad were the words, “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.”

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There were slight variations in the ad depending on location, with one U.K. poster featuring the bare breasts of 62 women and the slogan, “The reasons we didn’t make just one new sports bra.” Another poster included 64 women, though their nipples were censored with pixelation.

The ASA claimed it received 24 complaints about the Adidas advertisement.

These complaints included those who felt the ad “objectified women by sexualising them and reducing them to body parts” and others who challenged whether the in-person posters “were appropriate for display where it could be seen by children.”

Adidas, however, maintained the ads were not objectifying, but rather “were intended to reflect and celebrate different shapes and sizes, illustrate diversity and demonstrate why tailored support bras were important.”

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The company added that the images had been cropped to protect the model’s identities, though the volunteered models did not consider the advertisement sexual because “they intended to show breasts simply as a part of a woman’s body.”

Adidas also claimed the Twitter ads were not in breach of terms of service and that the poster ads had not been placed near schools or religious venues.

“The pictures were intended to reflect and celebrate different shapes and sizes and they did not believe they would cause harm or distress to children,” Adidas said.

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Still, the ASA banned the advertisement in the U.K.

“Although we did not consider that the way the women were portrayed was sexually explicit or objectified them, we considered that the depiction of naked breasts was likely to be seen as explicit nudity,” the ASA wrote.

“We noted the breasts were the main focus in the ads, and there was less emphasis on the bras themselves, which were only referred to in the accompanying text.”

The advertising watchdog concluded the Adidas ad breached existing advertising codes and must not be shown again in its current form.

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