The front of a Decathlon store in Ajaccio, a town on the French island of Corsica, was plastered with the poorly thought-out poster, which was immediately shared on social media by anti-immigration activists, who twisted the ad’s meaning in order to stir up hatred against refugees.
Decathlon was forced to remove the hunting poster after it become obvious that the advertising campaign – which was ‘borrowed’ by extreme-right militants who started using it to imply that migrants should be shot dead – could trigger an outbreak of xenophobic violence.
More innocent shoppers, including Twitter user @sebcarbonnier, said the ad campaign was nothing but a “bad joke,” and did not think that Decathlon was stoking anti-immigrant feeling
— Sébastien Carbonnier (@sebcarbonnier)
October 12, 2016
Nevertheless, the poster campaign spiralled into a controversial online debate after a satirical Belgian newspaper, Nordpresse, juxtaposed it with an anti-immigrant poster designed by a French far-right mayor last week; a poster which is now at the centre of a bitter lawsuit between the mayor and an anti-racism group.
A picture of the Decathlon ad campaign was also posted on the Facebook page of a pro-migrant group, Sauvons Calais, which means ‘Let’s save Calais’ in French.
According to the French daily Nord Littoral, Decathlon officials realised they had made a “huge” mistake after the picture was shared by Sauvons Calais’s followers “more than 20,000 times” and racked up “more than 1,000 comments”.
The poster was duly removed from the Ajaccio storefront on Friday morning, but pictures of it are now plastered all over the internet.
When asked about the advert, Decathlon said no offence was meant.
A representative of the firm wrote on Twitter: “No, it was not a tasteless joke. A (clumsy) poster which was plastered across our storefront in Ajaccio. It was taken down this morning.”