Adidas' newest social media campaign brought a widespread, speedy backlash after the sportswear brand accidentally tweeted racist and offensive phrases and slogans.
The German-based sneaker company launched its botched #DareToCreate campaign Monday in conjunction with the release of a new Arsenal kit to promote the London soccer club. Anyone who shared the hashtag automatically received a reply from the @AdidasUK account with his or her Twitter handle emblazoned on the back of an Arsenal shirt, alongside the phrase "This is home. Welcome to the squad."
Things quickly went off the rails when offensive Twitter handles began appearing on Arsenal shirts online. An artificial intelligence tool failed to censor the content.
Some of the more egregious Twitter accounts involved references to Adolf Hitler and Madeleine McCann, a 3-year-old girl who disappeared while on vacation with her family in 2007. Also emerging were anti-Semitic epithets and racial slurs used to describe African-Americans.
One handle, @96wasnotenough, referred to the 96 soccer fans who were crushed to death during a 1989 match between the Liverpool and Nottingham clubs in Hillsborough. The images came with a link inviting users to purchase a personalized Arsenal shirt.
Adidas later shut down the campaign and said it would investigate the incident.
“As part of our partnership launch with Arsenal we have been made aware of the abuse of a Twitter personalisation mechanic created to allow excited fans to get their name on the back of the new jersey," the company told Fox News in an email. "Due to a small minority creating offensive versions of this we have immediately turned off the functionality."
"We are in contact with Twitter, the innovation provider, to establish the cause and ensure they continue to monitor and action violating content as a matter of urgency," the statement continued.
The Arsenal told the Guardian newspaper the offensive language "has no place in our game or society."
“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."