Love Island’s choice of eBay to dress its sunny competitors this season was intended to capture the growing popularity of sustainable fashion. But the usual fast fashion retailers still managed to win the hearts of viewers.
For the uninitiated, the reality show is a reliable blockbuster for ITV, with millions of viewers tuning in each summer to watch a rotating cast of attractive young contestants flirt, fight and flaunt their style.
This made it a coveted marketing moment for brands keen to showcase their bikinis, bodycon dresses and ultra-skinny jeans in front of the show’s primarily Gen-Z and Millennial audience. In years past, fast fashion brands Missguided and I Saw It First have shelled out millions of pounds to be the show’s exclusive fashion partner, an investment that has paid off in boosting sales.
But the show has also faced backlash for promoting a disposable fashion culture. This year, the series is sponsored by resale site eBay, a deal positioned to promote more responsible consumption and reflecting an underlying cultural shift towards sustainable fashion. Islanders were allowed to bring their own clothes, but also had their pick of used and vintage items sourced from eBay by celebrity stylist Amy Bannerman.
But the presence of fast fashion is still present this season.
Although eBay reported an increase in search terms reflecting pieces worn by islanders in June, including a “blue PVC top”, a “green mini dress” and “Poster Girl”, a brand of form-fitting cutout dresses, Googling the same terms brings up prominent ads from retailers like Oh Polly, Asos, PrettyLittleThing and Cider.
The final episode of this season, due to air on Monday night, is expected to attract millions of viewers (at its peak, 3 million viewers watched this year). Fast fashion brands, armed with like-minded products, busy social media teams and robust influencer marketing machines, are ready to make the most of it.
Surfing the trend
Love Island’s classic uniform (bikinis and colorful swim shorts by day; nightclub attire by night) is fertile ground for fast fashion brands to switch products, even without a sponsorship deal.
Brands such as PrettyLittleThing, owned by Boohoo, and I Saw It First, which was acquired by Frasers Group last week, took out ad slots during the show’s commercial breaks, and fast scrolling through their media pages social shows dozens of tweets, memes and hot takes posted. in real time as episodes air. Boohoo even ran £250 giveaways on Twitter during the show’s commercial breaks.
“The reality is that the preloveds can’t meet the demand,” said Shore Capital analyst Eleonora Dani. “At the end of the day, you’re just pushing certain trends.”
As long as fast fashion brands stock something similar to the pre-loved pieces seen on screen, they’re ready to capitalize on it, she added.
Although no longer the official sponsor, I Saw It First reported a year-over-year increase in customer searches for products that appeared on the show, such as sets, rubber sliders and cargo pants.
The show’s power as a marketing moment reflects its influence on the young demographic that fuels fashion sales. It is one of four TV shows in the UK to attract more than a million viewers aged 16 to 34 this year, according to ITV.
That makes it an important target for brands, even as they tighten ad spend elsewhere in response to the economic downturn.
“You’re definitely seeing a more focused attitude from online retailers about what they’re willing to spend on marketing, as efficiency has dropped slightly,” said Deutsche Bank Research analyst Adam Cochrane. “That’s what probably makes things like Love Island more important, because there are fewer opportunities like that these days.”
That opportunity doesn’t have to come in the form of expensive TV commercials; Part of the appeal of Love Island is that brands can make the most of their own social media channels, producing cheap-to-make content with strong cultural relevance for their millions of followers. For major fast-fashion brands, such activity generates media impact value, a monetary representation of brand performance on social media, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the data and software company. Launchmetrics.
“We say brands need to find ways to connect with a consumer who feels authentic, to meet them in the space they’re in,” said Alison Bringé, chief marketing officer at Launchmetrics. For brands that manage to get it right and resonate with viewers, the show is “an incredible vehicle to be part of this cultural moment to promote your product.”
Beyond the villa
For brands and competitors, the Love Island effect lasts well beyond the season finale. Former candidates, now in the public eye, are being lured into offers from brand ambassadors.
“If you look at previous editions of Love Island, [brands] will find some people who resonate… with the UK consumer,” Dani said. “The deal then becomes the race to sign them up once they are outside the villa.”
The most notable example of this is Molly-Mae, of Love Island 2019 fame, who was named Creative Director of PrettyLittleThing in August last year, she added.
Loving Island influencer scouting is a crucial part of the fast fashion marketing machine that looks set to continue this season, analysts say.
“The litmus test will be when these influencers come out, … let’s see who they reach out to,” Cochrane said. “If they all suddenly become brand ambassadors for eBay, then maybe it’s fair to say there’s been a massive shift in mentality, that these influencers don’t want to be associated with brands, but there’s no there’s no evidence of that so far.”
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