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Adidas’ sports bra advert ban opens up discussion on female body diversity

Was Adidas’ banned advert a tactical PR stunt or ground-breaking campaign on femininity?

The sportswear brand Adidas recently saw an advert banned by the Advertising Standards Authority earlier this week, on the grounds of objectifying women.

Adidas’ campaign featured several pairs of female breasts in a bid to promote the diversity their new range of sports bras would offer but, after receiving 24 complaints, the ASA stated that the ads were gratuitous and “sexualised (women) by reducing them to body parts” as well as citing that they were able to be seen by children.

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The sportswear company defended their images, which ran on Twitter and large poster sites, by saying that the adverts were meant to “reflect and celebrate different shapes and sizes and illustrate diversity.”

Adidas did not run the ads on posters or billboards near schools or religious venues to avoid preventing harm or distress to children, but the ASA still declared: “We noted the breasts were the main focus in the ads, and there was less emphasis on the bras themselves.”

The German multinational corporation teeters on the edge of the ASA’s guidance surrounding nudity.

Their policies say: “Ads that feature a degree of nudity that is neither explicit nor sexualised are less likely to be considered problematic even in untargeted media.”

While the ASA have clearly found the ad to be too sexualised, we are left pondering over why?

As seems representative of any issue surrounding women’s bodies, the two predictable sides have formed offering their views on whether Adidas were objectifying women’s bodies or whether they are actually celebrating the differences and imperfections of body types.

However, the other issue that has arisen as a result of Adidas’ campaign is whether they have merely chosen to jump on the female empowerment bandwagon for their own PR gain.

Adidas unveiling Team GB kit for Rio 2016

NationalWorld spoke to Fara Darvill, from Design by Structure, who pointed out: “This kind of PR stunt is a cynical and divisive tactic - while it generates discussion about the brand, it also risks alienating some customers.

“In this case they have taken a calculated risk as to the type of women it might offend, and with only 24 complaints to the ASA, it has paid off for the brand PR-wise - we are all talking about it 3-months after the campaign went live.”

If Adidas really have created an advertising campaign that is a, perhaps slightly misguided, venture to honour femininity in all different shapes and sizes, while also promoting their own brand, is that really such a bad thing?

As Ms Darvill also explicates: “Ultimately, sales figures will show how it paid off in the long term.”

We might all be talking about their new sports bras but, much more importantly, we are also acknowledging the beauty in the variations of women’s bodies.

We also spoke to Truant London’s Toni Gaventa, contended: “We need more imperfect nakedness in our lives. If only more brands took a collective stand to shine a light on real women and our very different, but just as amazing imperfect bodies.

“Because, guess what, there isn’t such a thing as perfection. Not only should we celebrate and reward these more realistic campaigns but we should be going even further to support better representation of women.”

While Adidas may be worth around €30bn and therefore not in need of any additional PR to aggrandise themselves, what their advert has done is trigger a vital conversation surrounding the issue of female beauty standards and their sexualisation.

The company uses the images of breasts to promote their new sports bras - that doesn’t sound wholly unreasonable - given the fundamental function of a sports bra.

Additionally, they explore the necessity to appreciate every person’s different body type - something that in previous years has been seriously lacking in the fashion industry.

A woman’s body is supposed to be slim, but not too skinny, and curvy, but not fat - how can nearly four billion people subscribe to the same standard?