2021 Brand Experience & Activation


Product/ServiceRETAIL DESIGN
Category C05. Customer Retail / In-Store Experience
Name Company Position
Richard Collier The One Off Creative Lead
Hana Long The One Off Client Services
Alex Wilcox Frasers Group Retail Concept Manager
France Theanne Frasers Group Group Head of Retail Creativity and VM
Ronnie Laffar Frasers Group Group Senior Communications Manager
Phil Rowberry The One Off Creative Lead
Jonothan Engstrom The One Off Digital Lead

Why is this work relevant for Brand Experience & Activation?

The Covid-19 pandemic meant many retailers struggled and some even closed down. However, despite this difficult climate, Sports Direct stayed the course and continued to roll-out new stores using the elevated concept, while refining and tweaking along the way. This resulted in the new Sport Direct flagship store on Oxford Street, which opened in June 2021. It embodies everything that has been worked towards for the last four years and it sets the scene for what’s to come.


Four years ago Sports Direct was seen as a “rack-em-high-sell-em-quick” retailer. Its stores were difficult to shop in and offered little in the way of customer service. Consequently, the brand had a negative image in the press and on social media. And so we embarked on a journey with the brand to create a space far removed from the existing Sports Direct experience. Something that felt more premium, less ‘cheap’, a place where people of all ages and genders were comfortable to shop, whether it be mum for her kids or husband, teens for their school training kit, or cool twenty-somethings looking for the best Nike or Adidas shoes. The store not only needed to be a truly elevated experience that put the shopper at the heart of its design, but it also had to showcase the brand’s new attitude and philosophy.

Describe the creative idea (20% of vote)

‘Sports starts here’ is a simple promise of inclusion and inspiration. It’s about giving shoppers a world of opportunities to explore. Our aim was for the store to truly embody this promise and to present sporting options in ways that make buying the right kit easier. To be inclusive in the way we show our mannequins and models so they reflect real-life body shapes. And to provide inspirational moments which turn shopping into bite-sized sporting opportunities using AR. This isn’t a place of perfect bodies and being at the pinnacle of your sport. It’s about casual night-time five-a-side footie, dabbling in trail running, or playing tennis doubles on a Sunday morning. It’s the way 99% of us play sport.

Describe the strategy (20% of vote)

Sports Direct’s Elevation Strategy was conceived four years ago. Its aim was to put the customer’s experience at the centre of a multi-year programme to redesign hundreds of stores in multiple countries. (Customer selection is incredibly broad and spans across the UK and Europe.) The strategy was to use key stores as testing grounds for new customer-focused store design, CX and technology, while also elevating the customer’s experience and increasing the value and size of their shopping basket. The Sports Direct concept 2.0 was launched in Thurrock in July 2018 and it was a remarkable success, driving new customers to store and having a positive long-term impact on the stock price. The business had historically created brand-led shop-in-shop areas within their stores, which were difficult for consumers to navigate. Customers were frustrated that the collection wasn’t all in one place. Our category-led approach was born out of this customer feedback.

Describe the execution (30% of vote)

Features Exterior: Multiple rotating video screens create an unmissable fascia for the store.  Bra Studio: To help people find the right fitting bra for their individual needs. Designed in partnership with a leading expert in biometrics and breast health. Interactive elements: See how high you can jump with the ‘Basketball Experience’, have fun with AR in the Kids’ Selfie Mirror and more. The home of football: A focus on the upliftment of grassroots football, offering shirt and boot personalisation within the MyID kiosk. Inclusivity: In-store mannequins were specially designed with universal body shapes to show the true fit of the kit. The photography, film and who the mannequins were representing aimed to be as diverse as possible. Thrive: A new material which is made from recycled Sports Direct mannequins. It is used for making plinths and seating. 

List the results (30% of vote)

• Increasingly positive mentions in the press and on social media as a result of the market reappraising the brand. An increase of followers across all socials platforms and improved engagement through digital in-store offering, resulting in users finding Sports Directs products on social media. • The new dedicated category specialisms, as well as specialist offerings like the Bra Studio helped to drive footfall, majority being gen z and gen x demographic. • Because of the high demands of the strategy, new teams had to be setup to support its implementation, including new teams for marketing, digital and campaigns. As well as a development team which setup a new distribution back-end system in Shirebook. • There has been a doubling in stock price since the strategy was initiated.