Sports Direct, Mondelēz, Heist: Everything that matters this morning

Marketing News

Sports Direct aims to become the ‘Selfridges of sport’ by 2023

Sports Direct wants to become the “Selfridges of sport” by 2023, but while the brand’s head of elevation, Michael Murray, admits its plans to become upmarket are “not, not working” it is taking longer than expected.

Murray, who is also Mike Ashley’s future son-in-law, says: “It’s not, not working, it’s just not going fast enough — they’re two different things.”

In the past year the company has been on a spending spree, snapping up troubled retailers including House of Fraser, Sofa.com and most recently Jack Wills.

Sports Direct bought Jack Wills last week for £12.8m, after the fashion chain went into administration. The preppy brand will be housed in a new division within the high street giant that will focus on buying and building fashion and sports brands.

Murray also promised Sports Direct would continue to buy up struggling retailers while calling on the government to intervene with high rents to help the high street.

READ MORE: Sports Direct’s move upmarket ‘will take us four years’

Gambling brands see complaints skyrocket

Customer complaints about British betting companies have increased by almost 5,000% over the past five years.

The figures, obtained by BBC Panorama from the Gambling Commission, show there were a record 8,266 complaints in 2018, compared with just 169 in 2013.

Gamblers are now losing almost twice as much to betting companies as they were a decade ago, with the total reaching a record £14.5bn in 2018. Online gambling plays a large role in this rise, with new games and products attracting new customers.

Neil McArthur, chief executive of the Gambling Commission, says: “We are pushing the industry to know its customers, and part of this is actually, possibly, a good sign because it’s suggesting that consumers are demanding more of the gambling operators. And I would encourage them to continue to do that.”

The UK’s top five gambling firms have offered to pledge £60m a year in funding for addiction treatment, six times the current contribution, but critics argue this isn’t tackling the root causes of the issue.

READ MORE: Gambling companies see huge rise in complaints

Casting call for Milka advert banned redheads and ‘fat children’

Milka is facing criticism after a casting call banned overweight children from auditioning for its Christmas ad.

The casting call was published on Spotlight, a talent agency that helps performers find employment. It asked for a prepubescent girl to play ‘Mia’ for a Christmas advert, explicitly ruling out overweight children and red hair.

The request also said the child must be ‘beautiful and angelic’ and no taller than 4ft 4ins. It added: “She can be aged 9 to 12. If she is 12 she must be very small and still be childlike.”

It was later posted on Twitter gaining criticism from actors and consumers, with Milka’s parent company Mondelēz International apologising for the casting call.

A spokesperson says: “We’d like to thank people for bringing this casting notice to our attention. We take our advertising responsibility very seriously and this is not representative of the brief we shared with the casting agency and does not meet our high standards.”

READ MORE: Milka criticised for advert casting call demanding ‘no overweight children’ and ‘very good teeth’

Empty shops hit highest level for four years

The number of empty shops in town centres is at its highest level for four years, industry figures show.

The vacancy rate was 10.3% in July, its highest level since January 2015, according to the British Retail Consortium and Springboard survey.

Footfall also fell by 1.9% in July, the worst July performance for seven years.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard insights director, says July had been “much more challenging” for shopping centres and high streets than out of town stores.

READ MORE: Vacancy rates hit worst level in over four years

Heist launches ‘anti-feminist’ shapewear campaign

Hosiery brand Heist is launching a shapewear campaign that asks commuters to question whether this type of underwear is ‘anti-feminist’.

The tights startup will run 18 ads across central London, which state “Shapewear is anti-feminist, right?”. The campaign aims to confront the fact shapewear often sparks debate with some feminists accusing it of body-shaming.

Heist’s vice-president of marketing, Hannah Craik, says: “This campaign addresses the fact there is still a huge amount of stigma around shapewear; women are still shamed for wearing it – and for wanting to look and feel good.”

For the next two weeks commuters will be encouraged to share their thoughts using the hashtag #HeistTalk.

She adds: “We hear a lot – shapewear is the modern-day corset therefore it must be anti-feminist – because we think there is more to it. For us, just like with make-up, it’s about having choice over your appearance.”

Heist launched its shapewear last November after gaining a reputation for premium quality tights with controversial ads. In 2017, Transport for London banned an ad for being ‘overtly sexual’ after it showed a woman’s naked back.

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