Adidas has drawn the ire of a French regulator for falsely advertising a new version of its famed Stan Smith sneakers as made using 50 parent recycled material.
The shoes were launched as part of the German footwear giant’s commitment to using only recycled polyester by 2024. While the launch was met with glowing media coverage, the company’s claim about using recycled material in its sneakers drew the attention of French advertising watchdog ARPP, which also received a consumer complaint this spring.
The Advertising Ethics Jury (“AEJ”) of ARPP found that the ad of adidas‘ Stan Smith shoes disregards ARPP rules, which require advertising messages to be accurate and not be presented in a misleading way. The regulator also requires that marketers verify any objective assertions that relate to sustainability claims by presenting substantive evidence when such claims are made, The Fashion Law reported.
“Overall, the advertisement does not enable the consumer to discern the total proportion of the shoe that is recycled, and what constitutes the most relevant data with regard to the claim used (‘50% recycled’),” AEJ said. The ad “ignores the requirements of the ARPP ‘Sustainable Development’ Recommendation in terms of clarity of the message.”
AEJ also took an issue with adidas’ use of its trademarked “End Plastic Waste” logo. AEJ noted that just because adidas owns the trademark does not mean that it can skirt advertising rules, which prohibit misleading ads and the requirement to justify any sustainability claims.
“At the end of its life, a discarded [sneaker] will add to the mass of non-recycled plastic waste and, in all likelihood, fuel resulting pollution,” AEJ noted. “It cannot, therefore, be claimed that the marketing of these shoes would constitute a means of ‘putting an end to plastic waste.”
Adidas, in response, has pushed back on the complaint. The company noted that it meets the requirements regarding clarity and truthfulness of the ad and that its ad does not claim that the shoe is recyclable. Nevertheless, AEJ has determined that consumers are likely to be misled as they are likely to buy into adidas’ marketing and believe that the shoes are recyclable even though they are just made of 50 percent recycled material.
While AEJ cannot issue civil penalties, it has issued its decision on its website.