Adidas' Automated Social Media Campaign Shutdown After It Leads to Racist, Anti-Semitic Tweets
Adidas learned the hard way that internet trolls are never to be trusted thanks to an automated-tweet marketing campaign that quickly backfired.
To help promote a new partnership with the British soccer club Arsenal, the company’s U.K. Twitter account encouraged its followers to tweet with the hashtag #DareToCreate on Monday.
In doing so, the Adidas account would then send out an automated response that featured the user’s Twitter handle printed on the back of a red Arsenal jersey.
It wasn’t long, though, before offensive handles containing anti-Semitic, racist and controversial names and phrases began popping up.
CNBC reported that some of the handles tweeted out by Adidas included, “@GasAllJewss,” a reference to the Holocaust, “@MadelineMcCann,” the name of the British child who vanished in 2007, and “@96wasnotenough,” which referred to the fatal crushing of 96 people inside a stadium during a soccer game in Sheffield, England, in 1989.
As seen in screenshots, other handles included references to the N-word and Adolf Hitler.
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An Adidas spokesman said the company turned off the function as soon as it caught wind of the controversy, and all of the tweets have since been deleted.
“As part of our partnership launch with Arsenal we have been made aware of the abuse of a Twitter personalization mechanic created to allow excited fans to get their name on the back of the new jersey,” the spokesman said in a statement provided to PEOPLE.
“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.”
A spokesperson for Arsenal, meanwhile, told FOX Business the club “totally condemn[s] the use of language of this nature, which has no place in our game or society.”
Adidas is not the first brand to face backlash when using automated tweets; in 2014, the New England Patriots set up a similar function to celebrate reaching 1 million followers on Twitter.
The tweets were supposed to put the user’s handle on the back of a Patriots jersey, just like Arsenal, but again was shut down after users with offensive handles tweeted at the team.
“We apologize for the regrettable tweet that went out from our account. Our filtering system failed & we will be more vigilant in the future,” the Patriots later wrote on Twitter.