Adidas’ controversial LGBTQ+ advocacy campaign did “more harm than good” for the brand’s image and failed at their of advocating for the pride community, a branding expert told Fox News.
Adidas released the “Let Love Be Your Legacy” collection and campaign in collaboration with South African designer Rich Mnisi earlier in May, with the goal of supporting the LGBTQ+ community. The company said the marketing strategy was an attempt to “encourage allyship and freedom of expression without bias, in all spaces of sport and culture.”
But one of the models on the Adidas website that was wearing a woman’s bathing suit ignited backlash. The male-presenting model was seen wearing the women-branded swimsuit piece with a visible bulge in the crotch area.
This ad ended up hurting the company, Sterling Consulting and Marketing Group President Karen Tiber Leland told Fox News Digital.
“I think the way this was done hurt Adidas brand,” Leland said. “It became about the way they did it, not about what they were trying to support.”
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“I don’t think it was so much their support of [the LGBTQ] community as it was that the controversy was over how they executed it and how they dealt with it,” Leland said.
Adidas needs to “consider the other constituencies that they have … and how those groups feel about the way that they went about expressing that support,” Leland added.
Riley Gaines, a former NCAA swimmer and outspoken defender of women’s sports, tweeted that the Adidas campaign was the latest corporate attempt at “erasing women.” And Republican Rep. Nancy Mace criticized Adidas in a tweet on Wednesday that read, “I’m old enough to remember when women actually modeled women’s bathing suits, not men.”
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But senior vice president Jay Brown of the Human Rights Campaign felt the opposite. Brown previously told USA Today that opposition to the campaign was “just the latest example of an ideology obsessed with erasing LGBTQ+ people.”
“I think Adidas just threw a bunch of different things together and voila, there’s your ad,” Leland said. “But I don’t know that they really took the time to think, what is the essence of the message we’re trying to communicate here and how is what we’re putting out reflecting that message or not?”
The branding expert said whether companies take a stand on social issues or not, corporations have to accept they can’t please everyone. But at the same time, corporations are failing to think of their entire client base and how to implant smart strategies to address those social issues, Leland said.
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“You can’t make everyone happy,” Leland said. “That’s why you have to do what’s authentic. But you do have to think through intelligent execution.”
“And I find a lot of companies do not think through intelligent strategy or intelligent execution when it comes to these issues,” she added.
Adidas is not the first company to be embroiled in controversy following LGBTQ+ campaigns.
Bud Light faced backlash after the brand sent transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney a special pack of beer with her face on the can as part of an ad for the company’s March Madness contest and to celebrate a year since she transitioned. Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch, lost approximately $5 billion in value after news of the partnership led to nationwide calls to boycott the beer.
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And after the release of their LGBTQ+ campaign, Adidas shares fell 3% in the first 24 hours. Adidas did not immediately return a request for comment.
“I think it did more harm than good in terms of the brand,” Leland told Fox News. “I think it would be a mistake for them not to do a deep dive on what didn’t work here and how they could prevent that in the future while still retaining their commitment to those rights.”
To watch Leland’s full interview, click here.