Sports Direct, BrewDog, Ribena: Everything that matters this morning

Good morning and welcome to Marketing Week’s round-up of the news that matters in the marketing world today.


Sports Direct’s Beckie Stanion promoted to CMO of Frasers Group as it snaps up Missguided

Frasers Group has promoted Beckie Stanion to group CMO, two years after hiring her as the first CMO of Sports Direct.

In her new role Stanion will oversee the brand direction and marketing for all brands within the company, adding Flannels, USC, House of Fraser, Frasers, Evans Cycles, Game and Belong to her remit.

Sports Direct hired Stanion in February 2020 to lead the brand through a transformation, which saw the retailer launch its first ever brand campaign in the Christmas of that year. More brand building activity followed, with its first summer brand campaign ‘Just a Game!?’ in 2021, followed by a second Christmas campaign.

As of April this year, Sports Direct’s brand had improved significantly on a number of key measures. According to YouGov’s BrandIndex tool, the sporting goods retailer’s overall index score – a measure of total brand health – improved from a score of -6.3 prior to the brand push, to -0.8.

Speaking to Marketing Week earlier this year, Stanion said she too had seen consumer impressions of the brand change, with a great deal more “positivity” coming through. However, the “evolution” is far from over, she said.

Stanion joined Sports Direct from communications agency Mission where she spent six years, the latter four as business director. Prior to that, she was head of promotion for the UEFA Champions League Final between 2011 and 2013.

Writing on LinkedIn, Stanion said: “I am so excited to see where myself and the new team can take things. Thanks to Michael Murray [CEO] for the ongoing support and belief.”

Elsewhere, reports this morning (1 June) indicate that Frasers Group has bought Missguided for £20m, after the struggling online fashion retailer collapsed into administration. CEO Murray said the group was “delighted to secure a long-term future” for the fast fashion company.

Retail price inflation at highest rate since 2011

Food and retail prices are continuing to climb as retailers can no longer absorb the “full extent” of increased supply chain costs, according to the latest BRC-NielsenIQ Shop Price Index.

Shop price annual inflation accelerated to 2.8% in May, up from 2.7% in April. This marks the highest rate of inflation since July 2011, well above the 12 and 6 month average price increased of 0.7% and 1.9%, respectively.

Food inflation rose from 3.5% to 4.3% – its highest rate since April 2012 – with fresh food inflation up from 3.4% to 4.5%. Non-food inflation did decelerate, however, from 2.2% in April to 2% in May.

“The acceleration in food inflation reflects the fact that retailers can no longer absorb the full extent of increased supply chain costs now hitting the industry,” says NielsenIQ’s head of retailer and business insight, Mike Watkins.

“Promotions remain close to an all-time low and price cuts rather than volume-based offers such as multibuy are now the best way for retailers to help their shoppers manage their household budgets.”

The British Retail Consortium (BRC)’s CEO Helen Dickinson adds the situation for consumers is “likely to get worse before it gets better”, as there is “little sign the cost burden on retailers will ease any time soon”.

“While many people will welcome the Government’s latest announcement of support, uncertainty in the future of energy prices means they may only provide temporary respite,” she says.

BrewDog forks out £9m to address ‘toxic’ culture

brewdogBrewDog spent £9m on improving its working culture over 2021, as the beer brand tries to move away from accusations of an internal “culture of fear” made last year.

The money was invested in an “extensive culture review”, including up-scaled resources, learning and development, new benefits for staff and improving salary. Average salaries across the company rose by 3%, while the company increased its total workforce from 1,507 to 2,346, it revealed as it announced its financial results for the year.

News of the investment comes after co-founder and CEO James Watt outlined plans to give away around £100m of his shares to employees last month. Salaried workers will be offered free stock options over the next four years, with an estimated 750 workers eligible. The brewer also said staff at its bars would receive up to 50% of profit from their BrewDog locations every six months.

In June last year, more than 250 former employees of the craft beer company accused the business in an open letter of a “toxic attitude” and creating an internal “culture of fear”, as well as using “lies, hypocrisy and deceit” to generate positive PR for the brand.

Meanwhile, the results reveal BrewDog invested £17m in advertising in 2021, including its first TV ad campaign for Lost Lager.

The company reports a £5.5m operating loss for the year, an improvement on the £6.8m loss reported in 2020. The business invested £13m into expanding its venue business, including seven new bars and two new bars in four different markets. It expects to open 30 new venues this year.

Total revenue was up 21% to £286m, while adjusted earnings before tax increased by 79% to £14m.

“Though challenges remained, not least the continued closure of much of our bar estate during the year, we delivered significant growth across the business,” Watt says.

“We are investing in our brand, sustainability, our operations, but most importantly, our people – being the best employer we can be, and offering brilliant careers, is the surest way to support our future growth.”

Tui cancels another 180 flights amid airport chaos

Tui is cancelling over 180 flights from Manchester airport until the end of June, as hundreds of passengers have found their holiday plans left in disarray this half term.

Six flights will be cancelled every day, the travel company confirmed, blaming “ongoing disruption in our operation in Manchester”. Manchester airport put the disruption down to on-site staff shortages at Tui and its ground handler Swissport, which manages check-in and baggage handling.

Tui isn’t the only travel company to be cancelling flights, however. EasyJet and British Airways are also struggling to deliver as planned.

Deputy general secretary of aviation industry union The Prospect, Garry Graham, has blamed the government for ignoring warnings that cutting staff during the Covid-19 crisis would inevitably lead to problems post-pandemic.

“The government point to the furlough scheme but ignore that it ended well before the majority of international restrictions on travel came to an end,” he told Sky News.

“Now we see staff shortages across the industry, with huge reliance on overtime to get by day-to-day. In many areas, like air traffic control, overtime is only a temporary sticking plaster. So, things could get worse this summer before they get better.”

However, transport minister Andrew Stephenson has said the airline industry should have been better prepared for the half term rush.

READ MORE: TUI cancels more flights as union warns airport chaos ‘could get worse before it gets better’

Ribena unveils new long-term brand platform with £7m campaign

Ribena has ditched ‘Blackcurrant Artistry since 1938’ for a new long-term brand platform, marking a significant shift in direction for the brand.

Launched in 2019, the previous platform had focused on tapping into the brand’s heritage and craft to appeal to an older audience. With the new platform ‘Chin Up’, Ribena aims to help people laugh through life’s awkward moments.

Devised by creative agency BBH, the launch campaign centres around two films – one following a man feeling judged as he attempts to parallel park, while the other shows a woman checking her reflection in a tinted car window, only for a teenager to roll the window down.

With a £7m investment, the campaign will also run across out of home, online video, social media and in-store to reach 91% of adults in the UK.

Charlotte Flook, head of Ribena at parent company Suntory Beverage & Food, says the brand is now experiencing “strong” growth of 15%, making now the “perfect time” to launch a new platform and campaign.

“This new positioning will drive reappraisal of the drink to help retailers to grow their sales of the brand in store across our ever-popular ready-to-drink and squash ranges and give their category sales a lift,” she says.

Marketers report cost of living crisis is taking a toll on mental wellbeing

Some 50% of surveyed marketers say price hikes from the cost of living increase is affecting their mental wellbeing, new research finds.

According to survey of 1600 UK working professionals by networking group People Like Us and Censuswide, including 86 PR and marketing professionals, just under a third (32%) of marketers think the cost of living crisis will impact their employment, as the rise in prices means they may miss out on an expected promotion while their company looks to manage costs.

Overall, the research finds almost half of surveyed employees (49%) are now living from paycheque to paycheque, and over half (53%) are now saving no money per month.

Nearly three quarters (73%) of all those surveyed feel rising costs are affecting their work life in some way, rising to 85% of workers from a minority ethnic background. Over a quarter (28%) say it is affecting their performance at work, with people from a minority background more likely to feel this affect (36%).

More than one in five (22%) employees from a minority background feel they may have to change their job as they are unable to cover their living costs, compared to 16% of the broader population. Around a fifth of employees are also considering taking a second job to cover mounting costs (21%).

Meanwhile, 44% of PR and marketing employees surveyed say they prefer working from home as it saves them commuting costs, as 66% report struggling to afford the commute to work.

“It’s heartbreaking to see the devastating effect the cost of living crisis is having on people from all over the UK. But it isn’t affecting everyone equally,” says People Like Us co-founder Sheeraz Gulsher.

“In these tough moments, it is really important not to let equity fall off the priority list, particularly when this data shows that this crisis is affecting those from minority backgrounds significantly more.”

Tuesday, 31 May

Ikea ramps up loyalty offer with rewards for brand engagement

Ikea is extending its loyalty offer to reward customers for their time spent engaging with the brand as well as for purchases.

In addition to collecting points from spending in-store or online, Ikea Family will now allow customers to build their points balance by attending events, using its 3D kitchen planner, creating wish lists and logging in to an online account.

To coincide with the launch, Ikea worked with Wunderman Thompson UK to create a campaign to help build a wider audience and convey the brand is not just for “traditional, nuclear families”.

“Customers are always at the heart of everything we do at Ikea, and we are excited to be helping our Ikea Family members achieve their home furnishing dreams through our newest loyalty benefit, reward keys from Ikea Family,” says the brand’s global loyalty manager, Penny Shaw.

“Whether that’s using reward keys to enjoy a coffee and cake in-store or help getting their purchases home, wherever members are in their journey to make a better life at home, they will be able to collect reward keys and choose the rewards that give them the help they need,” she adds.

Cost of cheapest pasta rises 50% as inflation soars

The cheapest pasta product on the market rose by 50% in the year to April 2022, according to analysis from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Tracking 30 items across supermarkets, such as baked beans and frozen vegetables, has highlighted a steep increase in prices. The items where the lowest prices rose at the quickest rate were crisps at 17%, bread 16%, minced beef 16% and rice 15%.

For 13 of the 30 sampled items the ONS monitored, the average lowest price increased at a faster rate than the latest available official consumer price inflation measure for food and non-alcoholic beverages.

However, at 6.7% over the 12 months to April 2022, the average price rise of the 30 budget items was below the rate of inflation, which the ONS reported as 9% in April.

The price of chicken has also risen, with 600g costing £3.22 in April 2021, compared to £3.50 this year. The ONS tracked data from Asda, Co-op, Iceland, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose for its analysis.

Yesterday, Sainsbury’s revealed a £500m investment to help customers with the rising cost of living, with a focus on investing in essential items such as milk, eggs, meat, fish, fruit and vegetables and “key” household essentials.

“The cost of living is having a huge impact on our customers’ and colleagues’ lives and we understand that, right now, every penny counts. We are determined to stand side by side with our customers and we are relentlessly focused on driving savings that can be reinvested into keeping food prices low,” says Sainsbury’s CEO Simon Roberts.

Fast fashion retailer Missguided calls in administrators

Missguided, the Manchester based online clothes retailer, has called in administrators following a winding up petition from its suppliers, who are alleged to be owed millions by the brand.

The brand brought in administrators from Teneo Financial Advisory, on Monday, and the Guardian reports about 140 jobs are thought to be at risk, with a source saying more than 80 people had been immediately made redundant.

Missguided will continue to trade while the business seeks a buyer, says Teneo.

Teneo managing director Gavin Maher comments on the “extremely challenging” retail trading environment in the UK, but says Missguided has “a high level of interest from a number of strategic buyers”.

In December last year, London-based private equity firm Alteri Investors bought a 50% shareholding in the brand. The move was intended to help Missguided with a cash injection, supply chain help and to return to “sustainable profitability”.

“Despite making considerable progress in reducing costs since Alteri’s investment in 2021, this has proved insufficient to enable the business to continue as a going concern in the face of very challenging market conditions,” says an Alteri spokesperson.

“The process to identify a buyer with the required resources and platform for the business continues, and we remain hopeful of a positive outcome soon.”

READ MORE: Missguided collapses into administration

Grocery sales rebound to first positive growth since Christmas period

Total till sales at UK supermarkets rebounded to +0.6% over the last four weeks, shows data from NielsenIQ.

Suggesting the insight reflects how consumers are “shopping around” to find the best prices, NielsenIQ says visits to stores (up 7% versus a year ago) are driving total till growth along with the improvement in bricks and mortar sales (up 2%).

With consumers preparing for school holidays and the Jubilee bank holiday weekend, overall growth in sales saw an increase of 2.3% in the week ending 21 May. One fifth (20%) of households are expected to buy extra groceries for the Jubilee weekend.

In terms of the popular categories in the last four weeks, pet and pet care products saw a large increase (11.9%), soft drinks (11.2%) with sports and energy drinks sales increasing 21% and health, beauty and baby care products up 10.4%.

While there was an improvement in grocery sales in the last four weeks, the data indicates shoppers spent 1.2% less at UK supermarkets compared to the previous four weeks, down to £10bn from £10.1bn in April, which NielsenIQ says benefited from the Easter period.

“The forthcoming Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend should give a welcome if short-term boost to grocery sales. While many shoppers may have been pre-buying items such as drinks and party decorations, the forecasted warm and sunny weather will provide a good trade up opportunity for fresh foods with al fresco dining top of mind for shoppers,” says NielsenIQ’s UK head of retailer and business insight, Mike Watkins.

“While this helps superstores with their breadth of range, convenience stores are also likely to benefit from impulse purchasing as they always do when the sun shines.”

Cost of living and sustainability see consumers turn to second-hand shopping

Rising living costs and climate-consciousness are impacting shopping behaviour, according to new data from Ebay Ads UK.

Nearly a third (30%) of consumers are having to make more considered purchases to get better value for money, and a fifth (19%) are buying more second-hand items to save on costs.

The findings from Ebay show that in January 2022, searches for ‘upcycled’ on rose 40% compared to the month before, and searches for ‘second hand’ and ‘repair kit’ rose 24% and 21%, respectively, in this period.

Ebay surveyed 1,000 UK respondents and found that consumer interest in second-hand purchases is part of the growth of the circular economy, with 25% of consumers saying they try to ‘upcycle’ or repair their items before replacing. One fifth (20%) say they frequently buy second-hand, upcycled or refurbished items.

The research shows that almost a fifth (19%) of those surveyed say shopping as sustainably as possible is ‘really important’ to them.

“Between the rising cost of living and a growing desire to make more sustainable purchases, UK consumers are increasingly thinking about how they can be savvy with their shopping,” says Ebay Ads global general manager Elisabeth Rommel.

“With upcycling, buying second-hand, and more sustainably sourced products all rising on shoppers’ agendas, retailers in turn need to be adapting to these evolving preferences in order to engage their customers and contribute to the circular economy.”

Monday, 30 May

PizzaExpress appoints former KFC managing director as CEO

PizzaExpress has appointed former KFC UK and Ireland managing director Paula MacKenzie as its new CEO.

MacKenzie left KFC in March of this year, having spent more than 10 years at the company. Before becoming managing director, she held the role of chief financial officer at the fast-food chain between 2013 and 2017.

She will begin her new job at PizzaExpress next week (6 June). She fills the vacancy left by former CEO David Campbell, who departed in October 2021, citing personal reasons.

In her new role, MacKenzie will work “to fuel the next stage of growth for PizzaExpress – from digital transformation including the growth of the loyalty app to restaurant refurbishment”.

Allan Leighton, chairman of Pizza Express says MacKenzie has “a terrific track record of performance”. Before joining KFC, she spent time at food and drink businesses, such as Diageo and Innocent Drinks, as well as working at GSK on the Ribena and Horlicks brands prior to these being divested by the company.

“PizzaExpress is a much loved, iconic brand, that holds a special place in the nation’s heart. As someone who thrives on bringing brands to life, I’m thrilled to be working with Allan and the whole team at PizzaExpress leading this brand and business through its next chapter of growth,” says MacKenzie.

MacKenzie has leading KFC when the chain won Brand of the Year at last year’s Marketing Week Awards. She shared the three questions she always ensures marketers ask her to achieve “something special”.

Dr. Martens partners with Depop to enter resale market

Dr MartensDr. Martens has entered the resale market through a collaboration with second-hand clothing retailer Depop.

Under the ‘ReSouled’ scheme shoes can be repolished, given new laces, soles, heel loops and insoles before being resold at around 80% of the original price.

Dr. Martens has said it is raising the price of its classic boot by £10 in the UK in July due to rising costs, so it hope the lower price point might appeal to customers looking to save money.

The footwear brand’s CEO Kenny Wilson says that in 10 years’ time it is possible that up to 15% of Dr. Martens sales would be for second-hand or refurbished shoes.

He says the launch of the scheme offers consumers the “choice” of whether they want to buy brand new or second-hand. He makes the case that the scheme has a “broad” appeal, despite Depop’s young user base, due to increased consumer concern about sustainability.

“This is part of something really important for the business longer term. Our incredible strength is the durability of the product. I can own a pair for seven or eight years and they are still perfectly good for someone else who wants to buy them,” he adds.

Dr. Martens is looking at how best to pursue a wider second-hand scheme, Wilson says. But the brand is likely to test out its partnership with Depop over the next six months before deciding how to proceed.

READ MORE: Dr Martens to get foot in the door of resale market with help from Depop

Aldi ramps up healthy eating programme

Aldi has ramped up its healthy eating programme, aiming to reach an additional 1 million children through the scheme by 2024.

The ‘Get Set to Eat Fresh’ programme is run in partnership between the budget supermarket and Team GB and ParalympicsGB. It aims to educate children between the ages of five and 14 about how to eat in a healthy and affordable way.

The programme was initially launched in 2015 and has so far reached 2 million children. To hit its target of reaching 1 million more children by 2024, Aldi will increase its school partners, and Team GB and ParalympicsGB athletes get create resources and make visits to schools to share their healthy, affordable meal tips. The supermarket will also increase its library of online resources for teachers and families.

Aldi says that “it is more important than ever to support young people and families to make affordable, healthy choices”, hence why it has ramped up this initiative.

“Making healthy, great quality food accessible to everyone has always been at the heart of Aldi,” says Aldi corporate responsibility director Liz Fox. “With the help of our partners Team GB and ParalympicsGB, we want to help more children learn vital cooking skills and inspire them with ideas for nutritious meals that don’t cost a fortune.”

Walkers brings back ‘CrispIN or CrispOUT’ campaign

Walkers has brought back its ‘CrispIN, CrispOUT’ campaign. The tongue-in-cheek campaign asks whether Walkers crisps are best enjoyed in or out of sandwiches.

The latest iteration is led with a 90-second film that features celebrities including Nigella Lawson, Gordon Ramsay and Gemma Collins in a mock political debate on ‘Walkers News’.

The brand will ask residents in the town of Sandwich, Kent to take to the polls on 19 June, and decide once and for all whether crisps belong in or out of sandwiches.

The brand launched the first version of the campaign in 2021. It saw Walkers produce the most effective advert of April 2021, according to The Works monthly study. The study, produced by Kantar, found CrispIN or CrispOUT scored in the top 2% of ads on making viewers smile and in the top 21% for viewer enjoyment.

Walkers will be hoping to emulate this success with a second iteration of the campaign, devised by agency VCCP London. This time the brand has framed the discussion over crisp sandwiches as a mock political debate, with celebrity proponents of each side making their case for and against.

“Reframing the question of ‘whether you eat’ to ‘how you eat’ your Walkers crisps at lunchtime drove huge levels of debate on whether crisps belong in or out of sandwiches in 2021. However, one thing was clear…the nation could not agree,” says Walkers senior marketing director, Rachel Smith.

“Our 2022 campaign is all about revelling in the CrispIN, CrispOUT controversy, and in doing so reinforcing mental availability of Walkers at the lunchtime occasion,” she adds.

Pay for UK CEOs recovers to pre-Covid levels

Overall pay for CEOs of top British companies has recovered to pre-pandemic levels, despite the ongoing cost of living crisis.

Pay for chief executives in the FTSE 100 has reached a median average of £3.6m, according to Deloitte’s 2022 AGM-season report. This is similar to levels in 2018, and sees pay for bosses near the record number of £4m, which was recorded in 2017.

CEO wages fell over the pandemic, when many chose to show restraint amid economic uncertainty. In 2020, chief executive pay stood at an average of £2.8m.

The research also finds there is more disparity between the average employee’s pay and that of the chief executive. The data shows the median employee to FTSE 100 chief executive pay ratio is 1:81, compared with 1:59 in 2020 and 1:75 in 2019.

Much of the increase in chief executive pay may have come from pay-outs, which are often linked to share prices. Median annual bonus pay-outs were at 89% of the maximum possible awards, the highest level for more than five years.

Many of these bonus levels, tied to share prices, were set in 2020. At that stage there was pessimism about prospects for companies after the pandemic. Many companies instead went on to grow much more strongly than expected in 2021, meaning the chief executive pay-outs were also boosted.

READ MORE: UK CEO pay recovers to pre-Covid levels despite cost of living crisis



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