An Adidas campaign promoting the new Arsenal kit has backfired after Twitter users were able to post racist, antisemitic and offensive messages via the sportswear giant’s official account.
The German company has united with the London football club for the first time in 25 years, and was attempting to generate excitement through an interactive publicity stunt.
Anyone who used the hashtag #DareToCreate automatically received a reply from Adidas UK’s account featuring their Twitter handle on the back of an Arsenal shirt.
But images of Arsenal kits referencing Adolf Hitler, Madeleine McCann and the Hillsborough disaster were subsequently shared when Twitter users realised the artificial intelligence tool did not filter out offensive usernames.
The images were accompanied with a link inviting the user to buy the personalised shirt.
The campaign was described by one observer as a “marketing catastrophe” as many of the posts were widely retweeted for several hours before were deleted.
Many were baffled as to why Adidas had launched such a campaign, with Walkers Crisps and the National Lottery suffering similar abuse when they used personalised marketing.
That same year, a National Lottery campaign saw Team GB athletes inadvertently holding up messages featuring comments about the Munich air disaster and serial paedophile Jimmy Savile.
Adidas said it “immediately turned off the functionality” after it became aware of the issue, and that its Twitter team would be investigating.
Arsenal said the offensive language that featured “has no place in our game or society”.
The club added: “We work hard as a club to encourage diversity and inclusion through our Arsenal for Everyone programme, launched in 2008 as a celebration of the diversity of the Arsenal family.
“Through a number of initiatives undertaken in the community, inside Emirates Stadium and throughout the club, Arsenal strives to ensure that everyone associated with the club feels an equal sense of belonging.”
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