Marketing Strategy – Give Yourself a Sporting Chance


With the news of the impending slide into liquidation of another well known UK high street brand, the question is what lessons can you learn?

In a year where sport and in particular British sporting success has been celebrated with the Olympic, Paralympics and Andy Murray’s US Open triumph, experts had been predicting an upsurge in purchases of sporting goods and clothing.  Alas it was a case of too little too late for sports retailer JJB Sports.

But why has it suffered when its rivals Sports Direct and JD Sports are holding their own, or even thriving?  Had its rivals been providing a better retail experience?  Hardly, any visit to a Sports Direct store would require a SatNav to ensure you found the exits as you weave between the maze of racks of clothing, with yet more displayed tantalisingly out of reach high on every pillar and post.

But that customer experience hints at the secret of Sports Direct’s success.  The point here is that unlike Sports Direct and JD Sports, JJB struggled with a clear strategy.

For Sports Direct the strategy was offering the best value by exploiting low cost base and utilising every inch of its retail space, often at the expense of customer comfort.  This low price positioning was further extended with heavy promotion of its online offering.  With JD Sports the strategy has been one of promoting sports fashion with a resulting higher price point.

However with JJB it had not been competing on price or a higher premium by promoting it’s fashion credentials. 

Over extending just before the downturn did not help matters, but what was it’s point of difference?  There had not been a coherent strategy that could be executed and just as importantly communicated and promoted through it’s marketing efforts.

This serves as a timely reminder to ask yourself what makes your business different?  Are you at risk of being an ‘also ran’ without any compelling reason why customers should choose you.  Is your business supported by a clear strategy that is understood by everyone throughout the organisation? 

Crucially, is the message getting through to the people who matter – your potential customers?

Sports Direct’s strategy of piling them high and selling them cheap may not be original or even pretty, but it is understood and it is effective.  Will this strategy help them thrive after the downturn when people demand a more ‘discerning’ retail experience?

Who knows for sure but at least Sports Direct for one will be around to find out. 

Posted by: Nimish Sawjani on Sep 25, 2012
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