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Arsenal x Adidas - the latest social stunt felled by a Twitter personalisation mechanic


By John McCarthy, Opinion Editor

July 2, 2019 | 4 min read

Adidas’ Arsenal kit launch has suffered a few teething problems, first with the early leak of the hero video and now with an automated shirt name generator on social media being used to brand offensive and racist phrases onto Gunners shirts.

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Some of the obscenities generated by the system

The #DareToCreate campaign generated a personalised Arsenal shirt for Twitter users by superimposing their handle onto the back of the newly launched kit when they liked an Adidas tweet. It was quickly abused.

In addition to causing mischief by falsely announcing a Kieran Tierney transfer from Celtic to Arsenal, some users set up considerably more vile handles which were then automatically turned into the digital shirts. Some referenced racist slurs, missing child Madeline McCann and the Hillsborough disaster.

To abuse the system, social users were invited to like an Adidas UK tweet urging them to join the team. This then generated the strip from their Twitter handles. This activation tweet has now been deleted.

The Guardian reports that the offensive tweets have also been removed.

Adidas issued a statement claiming that the “Twitter personalisation mechanic” was “abused” by a “small minority”. It added that Twitter is investigating the perpetrators.

Last week, Arsenal's hotly awaited Adidas home kit was revealed in a leaked launch video. The spot, scheduled for 1 July, emerged online to applause from fans after a hidden link was supposedly found on the Adidas YouTube account. In the spot, players were shown embracing North London life from fry-ups to barbershop banter there is a surprise appearance from Arsenal fan Idris Elba.

The video creative was developed by Iris Worldwide. Adidas, which succeeds Puma as the Gunners' kit manufacturer, has inked a deal worth £60m-a-year.

It is not the first time a major company has fallen for automated personalisation that puts its brand reputation in the public's hands. Social media users are always quick to abuse any system where there is an opportunity for mischief.

PR chief Andrew Bloch illustrates in this instance the dangers of this mechanism.

Previous instances have included the naming of a boat Boaty McBoatface and seeing Gary Lineker, Walkers Crisps mascot, brandishing images of Rolf Harris and Fred West. Another example, Coca-Cola's 'GIF the Feeling' project, was hijacked by Tumblr users in 2016.

Here The Drum has compiled six social media personalisation fails and most wouldn't have happened if a human was signing off the entries.

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