Controversy Still Surrounds Adidas’ Shoe Design

Adidas is still facing a wave of criticism following its posting on Facebook of the new JS Roundhouse Mid sneakers, which were set to debut in August.

The controversy surrounding the shoe centers around the design that many feel resemble shackles, which are reminiscent of slavery and imprisonment.  The design sparked public outcry from consumers to civil rights leaders. The company had publicly backed the shoe at first on June 18, but by days end, the shoe, designed by Jeremy Scott, was put on the shelf for good.

In a statement to the Associated Press, Scott said: “My work has always been inspired by cartoons, toys and my childhood." With the Roundhouse Mids, he said he was inspired by My Pet Monster, a plush toy introduced in 1986 that had blue fur and horns and sported orange plastic handcuffs.

What Adidas experienced further shows the power of the Internet and the potential impact it has on an organization's public relations. Adidas, which markets about 47,000 products, was flooded with thousands of posts on its Facebook page, most of which were negative responses to the shoe. This in turn forced Adidas’ hand, which resulted in the removal of the shoe to attempt to minimize any further PR damage. 

The company released a statement, saying, "The design of the JS Roundhouse Mid is nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott's outrageous and unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery. We apologize if people are offended by the design and we are withdrawing our plans to make them available in the marketplace."

Intent versus perception is a fine line organizations have to walk, and when it goes wrong, as it did in this case, PR pros must quickly come up with a response that distances themselves from sensitive issues such as racism, sexism, etc. What Adidas did in this case was listen to the voices of its consumers, react immediately by canceling the shoe and doing what they can to protect their brand against harsh criticism.

Follow Jamar Hudson: @jamarhudson