China's '300': When Spartans met the Beijing police

Dozens of half-naked models dressed as Spartans attracted crowds while promoting salad in Beijing streets on July 22, 2015.

Beijing (CNN)This isn't Sparta -- it's China.

Dozens of half-naked models, dressed as Spartan warriors -- familiar to Chinese moviegoers from the 2006 action-fantasy film "300" -- were subdued by Beijing police while taking part in a marketing stunt, promoting a salad delivery service Wednesday.
The group of foreign models were hired to promote Sweetie Salad's leafy offerings as part of its one year anniversary, according to a statement released by the company.
    The shirtless, caped and leather-hotpanted models made a scene when they thundered into downtown Beijing holding boxes of salad, attracting crowds eager to photograph them.
    Images of the models quickly went viral on Weibo and WeChat, China's two most popular social media platforms.
    The crowds grew so large that the muscular Greeks even attracted the attention of the police, who set about subduing the warriors.

    Police intervention

    In some photos posted online, police are shown forcibly detaining some of the models, who put up considerably less resistance than King Leonidas' fabled 300 warriors at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC.
    The Beijing Public Security Bureau said the promotion "disturbed social order," and that the police had taken action to end the show. The spokesperson added that officers had subdued several people. The bureau is currently investigating, according to an official statement released on Weibo.
    Sweetie Salad also posted an official statement on its social media accounts.
    The company said that idea of using Spartans was to portray a Western image of a healthy body, hoping it would help with their marketing strategy.
    In the statement, the company apologized for disturbing public order and blocking traffic.
    "We have learned how inexperienced we are as a start-up company when it comes to organizing offline activities," the statement reads.
    "We'll strictly comply with the police orders, keeping our brand perception while maintaining public order and good social influence."

    Marketing fail

    A Sweetie employee, Jia Haolong, who delivered an order to CNN's Beijing bureau, said that it was meant to be a three-day promotion, but was unexpectedly called off by the police on its first day.
    The attention that the bare-chested warriors garnered, however, showed the success of the stunt.
    "A lot of people have asked me why their salad was not delivered by muscular Western models today," Jia said.
    He said that he felt it was the traffic jam that the Spartans caused that prompted the police to intervene.
    However, many web users condemned the company's marketing strategy for being vulgar and inappropriate.
    "When will these people stop playing monkey tricks?" asked one Weibo user.
    Sweetie's Spartan stunt is not the first time businesses have tried to attract attention through the use of scantily-clad models.
    In 2013, American clothing chain Hollister tried the trick, using shirtless, buff male models outside its brand-new Beijing flagship.