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Adidas and the backlash against 'woke marketing'

This highly controversial Adidas swimwear advert is the latest example of a major brand misfiring when it comes to dealing with trans issues. It also highlights that what might start off as a well-intended attempt to be inclusive, can backfire and hit sales.

With this latest campaign, Adidas has been accused of ‘erasing women’ with ex-NCAA swimmer, Riley Gaines, describing the use of a man to model swimwear made for women as a ‘betrayal’.

They’re not the first business to suffer a backlash in his area. Nike, for example used trans social media star Mulvaney to promote their activewear in April. Bud Light sales also dropped amid the controversy following their partnership with the same trans influencer.

Whether or not Adidas anticipated the reaction is debateable but Trans issues remain high profile and are increasingly becoming politicised as well as regularly covered in the press. 

As an employer you should be looking to support your employees to navigate these issues and ensure that an inclusive workplace is maintained.

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Irwin Mitchell recently published a new guide to help employers deal effectively with trans issues in the workplace.

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Adidas has for sale on its website a new swimsuit to celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride Month, which begins in June. Several people are communicating their disapproval via social media. Hundreds of posts include the hashtag #AdidasHatesWomen. The colorful one-piece has “Love Unites” printed on it. Resistance doesn’t seem to be about the swimsuit itself. Like other companies, Adidas has marketed and sold Pride Month merchandise in previous years without this level of condemnation. The problem this time is who the company chose to model the garment.

The swimsuit is listed in the Women’s Sportswear section of the Adidas website. But the two people modeling it present as gender nonbinary. This is what critics are calling attention to on social media.”