Travel brands often promote Brazil as a nation of sexy women on sensational beaches, but its own tourism officials say they abhor foreign stereotypes of Brazilian sensuality. So they were outraged when Adidas unveiled its new World Cup T-shirts this past week, two of which depict scantily dressed women.
One of the controversial shirts shows a woman in a bathing suit next to the text “Lookin' to score?” The “o” in score is a soccer ball, but the play on words failed to impress Brazil’s tourism board, Embratur, which said it was “vehemently” against any products that “link Brazil’s image to sex appeal.”
Tourism officials found Adidas’ “I Heart Brazil” T-shirt, whose heart is shaped like a bikini-clad bottom, equally distasteful and called on the sports outfitter and major World Cup sponsor to pull both from its collection.
The German company noted that the shirts were part of a limited collection only sold in the United States, but said in a statement Tuesday that it would withdraw them following the controversy. “Adidas always pays close attention to the opinion of its consumers and partners. Therefore, it is announcing that these products will not be sold anymore.”
The Brazilian government is campaigning aggressively to shed the country’s image as a destination for sex tourism. It said this week that it feared the Adidas shirts could indirectly harm its efforts.
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“Embratur works to combat this type of thing, particularly with regard to the commodification and commercialization of the female body,” Embratur President Flavio Dino said in a letter sent to Adidas. “The Brazilian people and especially the Brazilian women deserve that respect.”
Dino added that companies should never “treat the bodies of Brazilian men and women as tourist attractions.” He said Embratur would propose a meeting with the Secretariat of Policies for Women and the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency to discuss the expansion of its current crusade against sexual exploitation during the World Cup.
Brazil’s anti-sex tourism campaign includes videos directed at soccer fans that discourage them from paying for sex with children during the World Cup. The videos will appear on select Brazil-bound flights from Europe this June.
President Dilma Rousseff took to Twitter Tuesday in a burst of rapid-fire tweets to reiterate that her country was serious about its fight against sexual crimes. “Brazil is happy to welcome the tourists that will arrive for the World Cup,” she wrote, “but it is also ready to fight against sexual tourism.”
Brazil will host the World Cup across 12 cities from June 12-13. The occasion marks the long-awaited return to South America of one of the world’s biggest sporting events after more than 60 years. Embratur said it hopes to use the attention to promote its diversity, modernity, nature and culture.
Not its bikini bottoms.