Adidas says Berlin Fashion Week launch and co-CEO announcements are fake

Several press releases allegedly sent from Adidas

about a Berlin Fashion Week launch, its treatment of workers abroad and other topics related to its business structure were fake, according to the company.

“We’re not commenting on these fake emails/releases,” said Claudia Lange, the retailer’s vice president of external communication, in an email to CNBC.

One faked release said that Vay Ya Nak Phoan, who was described as a former Cambodian factory worker and union leader, had been appointed co-CEO to ensure ethical compliance in manufacturing.

The Yes Men, an activist group that has a history of creating spoofs to draw attention to how corporations respond to social issues, confirmed to CNBC it was behind the releases along with other groups. The groups hope Adidas signs onto the Pay Your Workers labor agreement, which advocates for garment worker pay and the right to organize.

“In the wake of several scandals, it seems like it would be a great thing for them to turn over a new leaf,” said a member of The Yes Men identified as Mike Bonanno.

Two of the faked press releases claimed Adidas was launching new clothing called REALITYWEAR from celebrities Pharrell Williams, Bad Bunny and Philllllthy. The hoax release announcing the Berlin Fashion Week debut on Jan. 16 claimed it was part of a push for a renewed focus on workers’ rights and material sourcing.

Adidas outlines its stance on workers’ rights on a “Workplace Standards” page dedicated to the issue, spelling out its code of conduct for worker health, safety, pay and “responsible sourcing.”

The Guardian first reported that The Yes Men were behind the campaign.

The multi-layered Yes Men campaign also referenced the now-ended partnership with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West who has come under fire in recent months for anti-Semitic statements, and included a “response” from the company, providing fabricated responses to points raised in the first releases.

— CNBC’s Gabrielle Fonrouge and Jessica Golden contributed reporting