Burger King’s sexist World Cup ad sparks outrage

The fast-food chain’s Russian arm apologized for offering free burgers to women who got pregnant with foreign soccer stars. Screen grabs of the ad have made international news.

Burger King Russia took a drastic step to support its national soccer team.

As the host country for this summer’s World Cup, Russia is playing host to some of the sport’s greatest players: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr. and others. The burger chain cheekily decided to offer free burgers for life and cash (about $47,000) for women who got pregnant by a soccer superstar—thus bolstering future Russian teams with their offspring.

Deadspin had this translation:

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!

After public furor, the company removed the offensive ad and apologized.

The Washington Post reported:

The ad was posted Tuesday morning. It was deleted Tuesday night after a scathing social media reaction. In a statement, Burger King apologized for the ad.

“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.”

On social media, the company’s Russian division explained that it pulled the ad because “it turned out to be too insulting.”

As in any crisis situation, reporters went looking for a pattern of behavior from the organization—and they found it.

The Washington Post continued:

Remarkably, this isn’t the first time Burger King’s Russia team has been charged with producing a sexist ad. Last year, the company mocked a young woman who was allegedly raped at a party.

In response to an interviewer’s question about how much she had to drink, the 17-year-old held up two fingers, indicating just a little bit. That gesture became something of a meme. In an ad, Burger King illustrated the victim’s likeness, complete with her fingers, on a promotion about a sale with only a little bit of time left.

Many on social media shared their shock that the ad received the green light:

Others said they weren’t surprised by the organization’s antics:

Burger King isn’t the only source of controversial comments about Russian women and the World Cup.

The Washington Post reported:

Tamara Pletnyova, a lawmaker in the Communist Party and head of a state congressional committee on children and family affairs, discouraged women from sleeping with foreigners visiting Moscow for the quadrennial international soccer tournament.

“There will be girls who meet men, and then they will give birth,” said Pletnyova, according to a translation by the Independent newspaper. “Maybe they will get married, maybe they won’t. But the kids will suffer, just like they suffered [in 1980],” she said during the radio interview.

The ad seems particularly misguided in the era of #MeToo and heightened scrutiny about gender equality. The gaffe is a cautionary tale for corporate communicators with teams overseas.

It remains to be seen if Burger King’s international division will respond to the crisis. The organization’s American division hasn’t commented, and for now all the stories about the marketing gaffe point to the Russian branch as the offending party.

Do you think America’s Burger King officials should comment, PR Daily readers?

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