With the World Cup in full effect, some brands have taken full advantage of incorporating the worldwide event into their ad campaigns. However, not all the ads are innocuous as a poorly placed soccer pun. Earlier this week, Burger King Russia apologized for their World Cup advertisement which offered a lifetime supply of free Whoppers and $3 million rubles ($47,000) to “women who get pregnant from world football stars.” The company’s apology statement, made in a statement to the Associated Press, was published shortly after the ad was taken down:
"We are sorry about the clearly offensive promotion that the team in Russia launched online," they wrote. "As soon as it was brought to our attention, we had it removed. It certainly does not reflect our brand or our values and we are taking steps to ensure this type of activity does not happen again."
The ad was posted on Tuesday on the social media site VK, Russian’s version of Facebook. According to a translation from Deadspin, the ad roughly read:
“Burger King, within the framework of social responsibility, has appointed a reward for girls who get pregnant from the stars of world football. Each will receive 3 million rubles, and a lifelong supply of Whoppers. For these girls, it will be possible to get the best football genes, and will lay down the success of the Russian national team on several generations ahead. Forward! We believe in you!”
Essentially, the ad was asking Russian women to get pregnant from World Cup players in order to bring “the best football genes” to Russia. Accompanying the ad was a photo of a person holding their pregnant belly.
“This is a direct reflection of the level our society is at towards women,” read one response to the ad, according to a translation from BBC. After outrage in the comments section of the ad, as well across social media, the ad was taken down. It was up for less than 24 hours.
Burger King also posted an apology to VK after taking down the ad. “We apologize for the statement we made,” a translation for the post reads. “It turned out to be too insulting. We thank you for the feedback and hasten to inform you that we have already removed all materials related to the application.”
This is not the first time Burger King’s Russian branch has be criticized for its ads. As the Washington Post points out, last year Burger King in Russia posted an ad appearing to make fun of a 17-year-old woman who was raped at a party. The Burger King ad used an illustrated likeness of the woman making a gesture, which had become a meme on Russian social media.
In response to Burger King’s latest ad, some commenters hypothesized it was in response to the Russian lawmaker who spoke out against having mixed-raced babies. Tamara Pletnyova, who is the head of a state congressional committee on children and family affairs, cautioned women against have sex with foreign visitors during the World Cup.
“There will be girls who meet men, and then they will give birth,” Pletnyova said during a radio interview, which was then translated by the Independent. “Maybe they will get married, maybe they won’t. But the kids will suffer, just like they suffered [in 1980].” Pletnyova also added, "It is one thing if the parents are of the same race; quite another if they are of different races. We should give birth to our own children.”
Though Burger King apologized for their Russian advertisement, it is a small step in a long journey toward equality.