WWTT? Adidas Social Media Campaign Generates Offensive Tweets

On July 1, as part of its #DaretoCreate campaign, Adidas UK promoted the new home kit for Premier League team Arsenal on Twitter. But sadly it didn’t go as planned, thanks to racist, anti-Semitic, and classless Internet trolls.

On July 1, as part of its #DaretoCreate social media campaign, Adidas UK promoted the new home kit for Premier League team Arsenal on Twitter. But sadly it didn’t go as planned, thanks to racist, anti-Semitic, and classless Internet trolls. The basis of of the social media campaign to hype up the new kit was simple: When Twitter users liked a tweet (now-deleted) from @adidasUK, the account would share an AI-automated tweet with the message “This is home. Welcome to the squad.” along with an image of the new Arsenal jersey and a link where they could purchase it. On the jersey, where players’ names are displayed, would be the individual’s Twitter handle.

And this is where it falls apart. Some handles were racist, anti-Semitic, referenced the 96 Liverpool Football Club fans that were crushed to death at a match in 1989, and more.

https://twitter.com/ZachAJacobson/status/1145883221994831872

The Adidas UK Twitter account deleted the original and all offensive tweets, and Twitter has tracked down the accounts and suspended them. But the harm is still done.

In regard to the snafu, Adidas made the following statement:

“As part of our partnership launch with Arsenal, we have been made aware of the abuse of a Twitter personalization functionality created to allow excited fans to get their name on the back of the new jersey. Due to a small minority creating offensive versions of this, we have immediately turned off the functionality and the Twitter team will be investigating. 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 Twitter spokesperson also commented on issue:

“We regret that this functionality has been abused in this way and are taking steps to ensure we protect the health of the interactions with this account. We have already taken action on a number of accounts for violating our policies and will continue to take strong enforcement action against any content that breaks our rules.”

And aside from the wildly offensive nature of these tweets, it’s an utter shame that the excitement of a new home kit has been tarnished a bit for Arsenal, who also shared that they do not condone any of the messages that were shared.

In a tweet from PR expert Andrew Bloch, which has since been deleted (that seems odd), Bloch writes:

Adidas’ #DareToCreate campaign provides yet another valuable reminder to brands on why you should never let the internet customise anything.’

And he’s not wrong. The New England Patriots learned that the hard way back in 2014 when their Twitter account automatically retweeted images of custom digital Pats’ jerseys, featuring Twitter handles that in some cases were extremely racist and offensive. And according to Fortune, there have been other mishaps made by Coca-Cola, Nutella, and Walker Crisps.

So yes, perhaps Andrew Bloch nailed it on the head, or perhaps if brands are going to host this kind of social media campaign, automation has to be turned off and a lot of common sense and human review has to be turned on. True, you lose the quick turnaround and have to invest more time and resources … but then you also might avoid such embarrassment.

I’ll be curious to see if this social media snafu damages the relationship between Adidas and Arsenal … but in the meantime, marketers tell me what you think in the comments below!

Talk to the (Twitter) Hand: The Perils of Non-Engagement

Every day, companies are jumping on the Twitter bandwagon—and perhaps, yours has done the same. Maybe it’s the lure of gaining new followers. Or possibly the attraction comes from all those Twitter success stories circulating the ‘Net. Or maybe it’s because Twitter takes five minutes to set up and doesn’t cost a dime. That’s OK, too. The thing is, many brands forget that Twitter is more than having a “who’s bigger” follower list or having the ability to Tweet pithy sales pitches.

Every day, companies are jumping on the Twitter bandwagon—and perhaps, yours has done the same. Maybe it’s the lure of gaining new followers. Or possibly the attraction comes from all those Twitter success stories circulating the ‘Net.

Or maybe it’s because Twitter takes five minutes to set up and doesn’t cost a dime. That’s OK, too.

The thing is, many brands forget that Twitter is more than having a “who’s bigger” follower list or having the ability to Tweet pithy sales pitches. Twitter is two-way communication, people. Not a one-sided soliloquy where you’re Tweeting solely for corporate self-gratification.

So let’s talk about two major brands that “get it” and use Twitter to its fullest potential. And then zero in on one company’s massive Twitter #fail.

Alaska Airlines and Starbucks give really good Tweets. When you read them, you get a sense that there is a person behind the computer—rather than a faceless corporate PR entity. In fact, Alaska Airlines even names the person handling the Tweets that day. And yes, their Tweets are more than just what these folks had for breakfast. For instance, Alaska Airlines promoted gift certificates and Starbucks previewed an upcoming sale on Cyber Monday (see the actual Tweets in the media player at right).

But here’s what makes both companies decidedly different: These brands engage with their customers. Starbucks and Alaska Airlines chat with their Twitter followers, answer questions and provide real-time customer service (see more examples in the media player).

Pretty cool, eh? And that’s why many people follow Alaska Airlines and Starbucks. The content is good, you know you’ll get a response and you’ll learn something. Maybe it’s early notification of a sale. Maybe it’s when in-flight wi-fi will be back. It’s useful information.

Let’s compare this to Citibank’s Twitter stream.

To say that Citibank has had reputation management issues in 2009 is putting it mildly. From taking bailout money to hiking credit card rates on some customers to 29.99 percent, the bank’s latest missteps have caused many good customers to cut up their cards. If there ever was a time for a robust social media campaign so people could “meet” the friendly customer service team members behind the scenes (that is, humanizing the corporation), now would be that time.

The good news is that Citibank has a Twitter account. The bad news is that it’s running it all wrong. Rather than using Twitter as a way to engage customers, the firm’s locking its customers out.

For instance, check out some Tweets mentioning @citibank in the media player, above, followed by a screen capture of Citibank’s Twitter page.

So, OK, let’s give Citibank the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it signed up for a Twitter handle to protect its brand identity—but doesn’t plan to leverage this account for some reason. You could almost forgive the bank … except for the Twitter account promoting the Citi Forward credit card (see the media player again, please).

Here are three problems:

  1. Although it will re-tweet, Citibank doesn’t answer Tweets (I tried)—so there’s no real interaction
  2. Saying that Citi Forward is “the card that rewards you for good behavior” seems a bit disingenuous considering that other Citibank customers with good credit histories have had their interest rates hiked to almost 30 percent.
  3. There’s no customer service component.

In short, Citibank is basically telling its Twitter followers to “talk to the hand” (or perhaps, its middle finger.) Rather than dealing with its reputation management issue head-on—communicating with folks and showing the human side behind the financial institution—Citibank is sending out Tweets that provide useful tips, yes … but talks AT its followers rather than WITH them.

If you’re planning a Twitter account (or currently maintaining one,) remember that Twitter is a real conversation (in 140 characters or less.) You wouldn’t keep a friend who constantly talked about herself, seemed oblivious to how other people perceived her and never listened to you.

It’s no different in the online world.

The perils of non-engagement in the Twitter universe are real—and the rewards for an excellent, interactive campaign are also real.

After all, what would you rather do? Tell people to talk to your Twitter hand or, instead, engage with your prospects and customers in a new, interactive (and profitable) way?

Seems to me, the choice is easy.