You read that right: the slogan, which Rebok printed up for use by an affiliated gym in Germany and which quickly went viral on the web, is
“CHEAT ON YOUR GIRLFRIEND, NOT ON YOUR WORKOUT!”
As blatantly unethical exhortations in pursuit of commerce go, this one is pretty spectacular. Consider:
- It is disrespectful of women.
- It advocates betrayal, dishonesty, disloyalty, infidelity, promiscuity and cheating.
- It designates a higher priority to narcissistic self-maintenance over love, commitment, and stable relationships.
- It represents an athletic equipment company giving the stamp of approval to cheating.
That’s a remarkable amount of bad ethics in just eight words. A masterpiece of economical cultural poison. Bravo!
Cheaterville.com, a website that could be fairly called the anti-Ashley Madison as it discourages adulterers and relationship cheaters by outing them online, sent Reebok a letter of protest that read…
“This form of advertising shows a dishonest and disrespectful attitude towards women and your company should be ashamed to have even placed this ad in various places thinking it would be perceived in any other way.”
I think that’s a fair assessment. Reebok, recognizing terrible publicity when it saw it if not a terrible slogan, quickly pulled the signs and related materials and apologized through a spokesman, saying,
“The signs were removed as soon as we were made aware of them. I can assure you that Reebok does not condone this message or cheating in any way. We apologize for the offensive nature of these materials, and are disappointed that they appeared at all.”
Now that’s one dishonest apology!
Come on. Are we to believe that a Reebok promotion was released without the approval or knowledge of the company? I doubt it. If Reebok doesn’t condone cheating, why did it approve a slogan that encourages cheating? How can it be disappointed that its own promotional materials “appeared at all”? Is Reebok laboring under the delusion that the Ethics Elves protect companies from embarrassingly unethical messages by making them vanish before they see the light of day? If Reebok didn’t condone the message, is disappointed that the signs appeared, and wasn’t even aware of the campaign, why does it feel it has to apologize at all?
Unethical slogan+Unethical apology = Untrustworthy company