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adidas SG apologises for upsetting Indonesians for linking 'wayang kulit' to Malaysia

adidas SG apologises for upsetting Indonesians for linking 'wayang kulit' to Malaysia

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Adidas has apologised for not clearly labelling that the wayang kulit, or shadow puppetry, originated in Indonesia in a post showcasing its influence on Malaysian culture. This came after Indonesian netizens flooded it with angry comments on its Instagram as adidas Singapore launched a new collection of shoes produced in collaboration with artists from across Southeast Asia.

In a promotional video for one of the products, which features a wayang kulit character designed by the Malaysian artist Jaemy Choong, the caption asked consumers to “celebrate Malaysia’s cultural heritage” through the design which pays “homage to wayang kulit, a significant part of Malaysia’s cultural identity and heritage”. Upset Indonesian consumers then rushed to slam the brand on social media, asking it to “learn something” before sharing it. Another netizen said, “It’s a shame that a brand as classy as adidas does not understand a country’s cultural heritage.”

A quick check by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE found that the caption has since been edited to “Originating from Indonesia, wayang kulit has inspired other parts of Southeast Asia.” Adidas has also apologised for the post saying it was sorry for “any unintentional offence that may have been taken”. It added that wayang kulit is also a “significant part of Malaysia’s cultural heritage” but noted that the company “should have highlighted its origins from Indonesia in the post”.

“For avoidance of doubt, neither the brand nor the artist intended to claim the cultural art form came from Indonesia,” the statement read.

While the Malaysian and Indonesian wayang kulit performances might seem similar to the untrained eye, subtle differences remain. For example, most shadow puppets in Malaysia have only one articulating limb, while most Javanese and Balinese puppets have both arms articulated. Both Indonesia and Malaysia also share overlaps in culture. In recent years, netizens from the countries have also friendly disputed over dishes such as rendang and fashion such as batik prints.

However, in 2007, a dispute emerged over mark dance after a folk song used in Malaysia’s “Truly Asia” tourism campaign struck an out of tune note among many Indonesians. This saw protestors in Indonesia in traditional costumes staging protests outside the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta, accusing Malaysia of promoting Indonesia’s cultural dance "Reog Ponorogo" as its own. According to Reuters, this also saw Indonesians launching anti-Malaysia campaigns with T-shirts carrying the word word "Malingsia" (Thief of Asia) – poking fun at Malaysia’s tourism campaign slogan.

In the third quarter of 2021, adidas' revenue grew only 3% due to the geopolitical situation in Greater China. The company said the challenging market environment in Greater China, extensive COVID-related lockdowns in Asia Pacific as well as industry-wide supply chain disruptions reduced revenue growth by around € 600 million in the third quarter.  In APAC, sales declined by 8%, reflecting the impact of the extensive lockdowns in the region. Other markets such as Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) as well as North America both grew by 9%. In addition, revenue in Latin America grew by 55%.

Meanwhile, in the same quarter, the company sold Reebok for up to €2.1 billion (US$2.41 billion) and it is expected that the company will receive the money in Q1 2022. CEO Kasper Rorsted  earlier said the brand will continue to focus its efforts on executing its 'Own the Game' strategy that will enable the company to grow in an "attractive industry, gain market share, and create sustainable value for all stakeholders."

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's Marketing Excellence Awards is back for the ninth year. There are 40 categories this year for brands to showcase your creative excellence, successful strategies and effective delivery. Click here to register! 

Related articles:
AirAsia Group hires adidas APAC managing director Colin Currie as commercial chief
adidas confirms Reebok sale to Forever 21 owners with US$2.5bn price tag
adidas unveils new 5-year strategy focused on digitalisation and sustainability

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