Adidas got itself into hot water this week as it unveiled the new jersey for the Colombian national football team, with prominent Colombians and hundreds of social media users lashing out at the company for leaving female athletes out of its latest marketing campaign.
“It’s sad that after we put so much effort in each tournament, they pick Paulina Vega.” – Nicole Regnier of the Colombian women’s national team
But, to the surprise of many Colombians, the campaign did not feature any players from the Colombian women’s team, which typically wear the same uniform as the men.
Instead of showcasing the nation’s female footballing talent, Adidas asked former Miss Universe Paulina Vega to pose with the Colombian jersey and post a picture on her Instagram account.
Vega has no connection with Colombian football, but is widely known in the country for her participation in beauty pageants and TV shows. She also models for Chilean retail chain Falabella.
One of the first to protest the apparent exclusion of female players from the campaign was Vanessa Cordoba, a goalkeeper in Colombia’s recently created female football league. “I understand that for publicity reasons, you may want to give the shirt to Paulina Vega,” Cordoba wrote on her Twitter account. “But players count too. They have merits and deserve respect.”
Cordoba’s view was echoed by Nicole Regnier, a forward for the Colombian national football team who has a large following on social media. “It’s sad that after we put so much effort in each tournament, they pick Paulina Vega,” Regnier told Colombian radio station La FM.
Instead of showcasing the nation’s female footballing talent, Adidas asked former Miss Universe Paulina Vega to pose with the shirt and post a picture on her Instagram account.
Dozens of Twitter users wrote messages in support of the female players, and the complaint soon became a story on national news outlets like El Tiempo, Semana, and El Espectador. The story has picked up enough steam that Adidas has even received bad English-language press about the incident internationally in major U.S. and U.K. outlets, including Bleacher Report and the Daily Mirror.
Jineth Bedoya, deputy editor-in-chief of El Tiempo and an internationally recognized women’s rights advocate who was abducted and raped by a Colombian paramilitary group in 2000, published a video message on Twitter criticizing the company. “It’s incredible that a brand like Adidas…discriminate,” she said. “Why aren’t our great [female] players in the campaign?”
Others shared similar messages. “I would’ve like to see a female player presenting the shirt, it would have been inspiring for girls and women in Colombia,” wrote Carolina Agudelo, a designer.
“Vanessa Cordoba does well to evidence machista situations. Simple actions help make our society better,” added Franz Rodríguez-Gualdrón, a political scientist at Bogotá’s Javeriana University
Though the Colombian women’s football team is not as widely followed as the men’s team, both are outfitted by Adidas. The female team has been making strides competitively, making it to the knockout stage of the 2015 Women’s World Cup and qualifying for the 2016 Olympics. The launch this year of the 18-team women’s professional league — the “Liga Professional Feminina” — was widely hailed as a major step forward for the sport in Colombia.
Adidas has so far not responded to the complaints. But the company has apparently started to send jerseys of the same new design to members of Colombia’s female football team.
On Thursday, three days after the jersey was officially launched through the company’s social media campaign, Colombian forward Catalina Usme shared photos of herself on Twitter wearing the new kit.
“It goes on your skin but first in your heart,” Usme wrote on her account.