Content brand of the week: SportsDirect.com, the brand that’s piling content high and selling it cheap

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SportsDirect.com? You mean the high street sports store that’s been having a ‘closing down sale’ since the day its very first branch was opened?

That’s the one. Ironically, rather than closing down (as many of its high street competitors have) the brand has gone from strength to strength in recent years, surging out of the recession and posting record profits this fiscal year.

Well good for SportsDirect, I’m sure Mike Ashley will enjoy building another wing on his mansion.

Well possibly, although the brand caught the news headlines last month when it announced it would be giving its employees bonus payouts of shares worth up to £70,000 for all their hard work in helping the company hit its sales targets.

Very generous. Doesn’t exactly fit with the brand’s quick, cheap and dirty image either?

No, but one of SportsDirect’s greatest strengths is its ability to continually confound its critics – never more so than in its move towards becoming a content publisher.

Surely not!

That’s right, the brand’s sports news site went live over a month ago and a steady stream of content has been flowing ever since – benefitting from the 2013 British summer of sporting success and the July/August influx of football transfer rumours.  To go alongside the site, this week the SportsDirect launched the first edition of its new print magazine, imaginatively titled ‘SportsDirect.com Magazine’. The mag contains fitness tips, product reviews and advice on how to improve your game in a variety of sports. The core audience is men aged 25-35, and as you’d expect there’s plenty of football content, plus fitness tips dispensed by former Hollyoaker and glamour model Gemma Atkinson.

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I didn’t know she was a fitness expert?

Neither did we. But Atkinson’s role in the mag does sum up the way SportsDirect has moved from an advertising approach that is all about products and discounts to something more like a publisher. Where in the past we’d have expected to see a discount-dominated TV or billboard ad for SportsDirect, possibly featuring a model in the latest England strip, this new approach sees the brand leveraging a popular personality to boost interest in what it has to say, rather than sell. SportsDirect has leapfrogged many other ‘likelier’ brands that are just starting to publish and jumped into content production two-footed.

So does this move to a publishing mind-set mean SportsDirect are trying to become the next global content brand, or is it still all about the sales?

While we know as much about SportsDirect’s motivations for becoming a content brand as we do about Gemma Atkinson’s credentials as a fitness instructor, we’d imagine it’s a little of both. SportsDirect is, and always has been, a sales-oriented business, but as the brand has cemented its place on the British high street it may be that its bosses are starting to think a little more long-term.

Whatever its motivations are, the fact that SportsDirect is embracing content just goes to show how important inbound marketing is. For every type of business. Whether you’re a bijou boutique with an exclusive clientele to the biggest, cheapest bargain mega-retailer – content is what assures you pride of place in the forefront of your consumer’s mind and has them coming back for more.

GOOOOOOOAAAAAALLLL!!!!

Where next?
More from Tom Owen
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Author: Tom Owen

A strategic storyteller and compelling content creator, awash with acuity and adept at alliteration. I work for Speak Media. www.speakmedia.co.uk

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