“‘Creating the New‘ is the headline for our next five-year strategic business plan,” Adidas states. However, with this clothing line, the company has decided to focus on the past rather than the future. Recently, it introduced a Soviet Union-themed jersey, mash-up jersey, layer tee, and tank dress. The USSR designs have sparked such an outrage, and it even reached a diplomatic level.
Twitter users sarcastically suggested that Adidas should create an entire line of totalitarian attire options. An online petition called it “disgusting and unacceptable,” demanding that Adidas remove all apparel with Soviet Russia symbols from its stores. The Strategic Communication Group of the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted, “Being sick with ‘imperial nostalgia’ – it still occurs. A bit surprising from the famous @adidas, though.” And Latvian member of the European Parliament, Artis Pabriks, pointed out: “Adidas is preparing for football in Russia by producing clothing with USSR symbols. Would they do it with NAZI symbols as well?”
The post-Soviet states are still recovering from the scars inflicted by the communist regime. For example, Holodomor, the famine-genocide of Ukraine, took about 4 million lives within the borders of Soviet Ukraine between 1932-1934. Also, approximately 600,000 people were deported from the Soviet-occupied Baltic States – Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. There were some 10 million inhabitants in the area on the eve of the Soviet occupation, so to put it into perspective, the number of Baltic prisoners would have been equal to a loss of 20 million people in the United States or 5 million in Great Britain.
To backtrack, in 2008 Herbert Hainer, CEO and Chairman of Adidas AG, said “We are well-positioned with all our Adidas Russian brands. The Adidas Group is growing so fast in this large country that it is already one of our most important markets in Europe with the potential to claim the top spot by 2010.”
Over the years, the Russia/CIS had continuously met or exceeded company expectations and was one of the most important markets for the Adidas Group. For the five years before 2013, the market was growing 30% to 100% a year. But the situation changed dramatically. In 2014, the Russian economy was in a tailspin due to a sharp decline in oil prices, a weak ruble, the political fallout from the forceful annexation of Crimea, Western sanctions, and inflationary pressures. A year later, the company announced it would close 200 sports clothing shops across Russia because of the poor economic situation in the country and shrinking sales. Was this Adidas USSR-themed clothing line an attempt to revive the market? Or a venture to maximize Adidas’ appeal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup?
Accused of historical insensitivity, the retailer announced it plans to stop selling Adidas Soviet Union dedicated sportswear. As of this article, however, it is still available for purchase.