Adidas sports bra adverts that showed women's bare breasts are banned
11th May 2022

Adidas sports bra adverts that showed women’s bare breasts ‘of all shapes and sizes’ are banned – following complaints that they were ‘gratuitous’ and ‘reduced women to body parts’

  • A tweet, posted in February, showed the breasts of a diverse group of 20 women
  • Two other posters showed similar cropped images of 62 and 64 women
  • Adidas’ advert said: ‘The reasons we didn’t make just one new sports bra’
  • The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 24 complaints
  • It has now banned the adverts due to their depiction of ‘explicit nudity’

Adverts for Adidas sports bras that featured women’s bare breasts have been banned for being likely to cause widespread offence.

A tweet, posted in February, showed the breasts of 20 women of various skin colours, shapes and sizes in a grid format.

In the ad, Adidas stated: ‘We believe women’s breasts in all shapes and sizes deserve support and comfort. Which is why our new sports bra range contains 43 styles, so everyone can find the right fit for them.’

Two other posters showed similar cropped images of 62 and 64 women, and stated: ‘The reasons we didn’t make just one new sports bra.’

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 24 complaints that the ads’ use of nudity was gratuitous and objectified women by sexualising them and ‘reducing them to body parts’.

Some complainants also challenged whether the poster ads were appropriate for display where they could be seen by children.

Adidas UK said the images were intended to ‘reflect and celebrate different shapes and sizes, illustrate diversity and demonstrate why tailored support bras were important’.

Adverts for Adidas sports bras that featured women’s bare breasts have been banned for being likely to cause widespread offence by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)

The brand explained in its advert that its new sports bra range comes in 43 styles because women’s breasts come ‘in all shapes and sizes’

They said the images had been cropped to protect the identity of the models and to ensure their safety, adding that all the models shown had volunteered to be in the ad and were supportive of its aims.

Twitter said the post had been reported by some users but was not found to be in breach of its terms of service.

The ASA said: ‘Although we did not consider that the way the women were portrayed was sexually explicit or objectified them, we considered that the depiction of naked breasts was likely to be seen as explicit nudity.

‘As the ads contained explicit nudity, we considered that they required careful targeting to avoid causing offence to those who viewed them.’

Referring to the two posters, the ASA said: ‘We considered that the image was not suitable for use in untargeted media, particularly where it could be seen by children. We concluded that (the posters) were inappropriately targeted, and were likely to cause widespread offence.’

In relation to the tweet, the ASA said: ‘We noted the content typically featured on the Adidas Twitter feed promoted their sportswear for women and considered explicit nudity was not in keeping with their usual content.

‘Because (the tweet) featured explicit nudity, we concluded it was likely to cause widespread offence in that media.

‘We therefore concluded that the ads breached the Code.’

Adidas said: ‘The gallery creative was designed to show just how diverse breasts are, featuring different shapes and sizes that highlight why tailored support is paramount.

The provocative ad featured on billboards in the US, with one fan shared a photo of the sign while praising the company (pictured). Twitter said the post had been reported by some users but was not found to be in breach of its terms of service

‘It is important to note that the ASA ruling was related to this creative being used in an untargeted fashion on email / banner ads /etc rather than the creative itself and the message, which we stand proudly behind, and it is exhibited on adidas.com.’

In a defence given to the ASA’s investigation, the firm said: ‘They [the ads] were intended to reflect and celebrate different shapes and sizes, illustrate diversity and demonstrate why tailored support bras were important.

‘The images had been cropped to protect the identity of the models and to ensure their safety.

‘All the models shown had volunteered to be in the ad and were supportive of its aims. Adidas did not consider the ad to be sexual; they intended to show breasts simply as a part of a woman’s body.’

Adidas said their ad agency submitted the posters at the brief stage to the copy advice team, who advised the images were not sexual and did not appear to objectify women, but that there was ‘risk attached to the use of nudity in commercial advertising, especially in untargeted spaces’.

The sports firm said that as a result of that advice, the company had not put the ads near schools or religious buildings.


The Adidas ad didn’t actually feature any of the sports bras it was promoting, though there was a link to the collection (examples pictured)

But the ASA said of its decision: ‘The ads must not appear again in the forms complained of. We told Adidas UK Ltd to ensure their ads did not cause offence and were targeted responsibly.’

Twitter said the ad showing bare nipples was an ‘organic, not a paid-for, tweet’ that had been reported by some users, but was not found to be in breach of their terms of service.

Adidas joked in response to the ruling that ‘everybody in sport deserves to be supported’ and that the company ‘stands proudly behind’ the message underlying the ads.

A spokesman for the sportswear firm said: ‘At adidas, we believe everybody in sport deserves to be supported. That is why we tirelessly innovate to meet the needs of our diverse community, helping more people experience the life-changing benefits of sport.

‘The confidence and support a sports bra gives can have a significant impact on someone’s performance and ability to stick with sport. That is why we have re-engineered our entire portfolio, catering to more bodies and workouts than ever before.

‘The gallery creative was designed to show just how diverse breasts are, featuring different shapes and sizes that highlight why tailored support is paramount.

‘It is important to note that the ASA ruling was related to this creative being used in an untargeted fashion rather than the creative itself and the message, which we stand proudly behind.’ 

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