An advert for Adidas sports bras that featured women's bare breasts has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) due to showing "explicit nudity" and being likely to "cause widespread offence".

A tweet, posted in February, showed the breasts of 20 women of various skin colours, shapes and sizes in a grid format and stated: “We believe women’s breasts in all shapes and sizes deserve support and comfort. Which is why our new sports bra range contains 43 styles, so everyone can find the right fit for them.”

Two posters showed similar cropped images of 62 and 64 women, and stated: “The reasons we didn’t make just one new sports bra.”

The ASA received 24 complaints that the ads’ use of nudity was gratuitous and objectified women by sexualising them and “reducing them to body parts”.

The Northern Echo: Sports bras from Adidas (Adidas/PA)Sports bras from Adidas (Adidas/PA)

Some complainants also challenged whether the poster ads were appropriate for display where they could be seen by children.

Adidas UK said the images were intended to “reflect and celebrate different shapes and sizes, illustrate diversity and demonstrate why tailored support bras were important”.

They said the images had been cropped to protect the identity of the models and to ensure their safety, adding that all the models shown had volunteered to be in the ad and were supportive of its aims.

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Twitter said the post had been reported by some users but was not found to be in breach of its terms of service.

The ASA said: “Although we did not consider that the way the women were portrayed was sexually explicit or objectified them, we considered that the depiction of naked breasts was likely to be seen as explicit nudity.

“As the ads contained explicit nudity, we considered that they required careful targeting to avoid causing offence to those who viewed them.”

Referring to the two posters, the ASA said: “We considered that the image was not suitable for use in untargeted media, particularly where it could be seen by children. We concluded that (the posters) were inappropriately targeted, and were likely to cause widespread offence.”

In relation to the tweet, the ASA said: “We noted the content typically featured on the Adidas Twitter feed promoted their sportswear for women and considered explicit nudity was not in keeping with their usual content.

“Because (the tweet) featured explicit nudity, we concluded it was likely to cause widespread offence in that media.

“We therefore concluded that the ads breached the Code.”

Adidas said: “The gallery creative was designed to show just how diverse breasts are, featuring different shapes and sizes that highlight why tailored support is paramount.

“It is important to note that the ASA ruling was related to this creative being used in an untargeted fashion on email / banner ads /etc rather than the creative itself and the message, which we stand proudly behind, and it is exhibited on”