‘The Die Hard of Christmas ads’: Uncommon on the JD Sports festive campaign

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The retailer bags one of the best Christmas ads this year, but how did it land on it? Drummer extraordinaire Benny Everett, Kuba Tukli and Shaun Savage ask tough questions.

Amidst a sea of ​​impressive, often far-fetched Christmas campaigns, the JD Sports ad stood out for its relevance. It’s an unusual creative advertising agency’s work centered around one simple thing: the retailer’s signature duffle bag. Over the past 25 years, the plastic carrier has delivered new trainers to homes, delivered PE kits to schools, delivered leftovers, retained books and more.

So, how did the humble bag get to star in a holiday campaign?

Simply put, it was unusual among the three or so agencies vying for the job. “The brand has always been known for making movies with a lot of talent,” said Benny Evert, Special Creative Director. It has a model and we really felt it was more accurate than what JD was doing.

The unusual group realized that 2023 was a good time to do a bit of a reboot on the tried and tested formula and do something “built on the street” and “understand what Britain is like”.

Tin on steroids

JD Sports has a lot of understanding about the needs and wants of its audience. The “tinsel on steroids” approach didn’t just cut it for consumers, who prioritized vacation time and quality with family. Forget the usual scenes of huge tables laden with mass of food.

“This is white snow, a sea of ​​gifts under the tree. These are all the things that most people don’t have at Christmas,” adds top creative Kuba Tukali. But they still have something else, which is love and unity, friendship and warmth.

The sports bag brief took center stage from the moment it entered the studio. Further research has shown that people who see a JD Sports bag under the Christmas tree know they’re getting a good present.

“You’re always trying to chase an icon,” says creative director Shawn Savage. “And for us, we immediately understood the power of the bag.” The design may have changed over the years, but the image on people’s backs has not changed. According to him, brands are assets to die for.

“It’s the ultimate level of becoming one with our heroes. Other brands are always trying to raise their star above us,” Everett continued. “We thought it was important that JD is probably the only brand on the high street that allows kids to dress like their icons.” It seemed like something to everyday people and carried some kind of emotional weight.

The idea seems so obvious, Savage joked: “I can’t believe that something so niche, so much of the brand identity at street level wasn’t used in the way it was before.”

Hitting that sweet spot between modernity and nostalgia was tricky. The trio, after the ad aired, admitted they saw a lot of comments online from generations of people who remember the bag, leading them to question whether they’ve hit the right audience. The team realized that young people don’t post their opinions about advertising on social media, but rather give props in real life, which has happened. Tuakli says the fact that everyone sees something in it is probably the main payoff.

“To their entire credit, 16-year-olds don’t read LinkedIn or read the drumbeat. [We have a few] Trying to work out whether something is good or not,” Savage added. “You see the pre-roll coming up on Central C’s video on YouTube, and they don’t comment.” The London-born rapper is featured in the ad, as well as Kano and Davido, Ronisia, Ella Toone, AntsLive and Kirbs.

It was always intended to make a place of celebration; That was never in question. Compared to being as die-hard as the Christmas adverts, the team has a smile. It’s what you set out to do. “That pretty much sums it up,” says Everett. “It’s that tradition that has nothing to do with Christmas, togetherness and warmth.”

Kano’s real family features in the ad. And many of the cast members were in relationships before filming. That helped the team find the accuracy it was after.

“You get that extra touch; someone leans on someone’s shoulder a little bit, they wrap their arms around each other instead of standing next to each other. There’s just those little touches of authenticity that come out when you have a real bond.”

Confidence breeds authenticity

JD Sports was based on authenticity and did not carry unnecessary branding in its advertising.

“The team had faith in them,” Tukli says. “This comes from knowing how closely their portfolio and brand resonates with the culture they want to speak to.”

Even when it comes to designing the bag, it’s rarely front and center. Brand execs have been talking about ‘living life’ which informs every shot. Many of the scenes feel like they’re in the middle of life. But don’t be fooled. There is nothing unusual about those shots. “There’s a lot of magical realism, borderline surrealism in this film, but because the story you’re telling is true, we can tell it through art,” Tuakli continued.

One of the moments that captured the imagination featured a horse. The creators have cleaned up what’s going on about it and have repeatedly stated that they’re not trying to chase some sort of naff nature that meets the idea of ​​suburbia. The teenager, who used to ride at a young age, is known as the rider on Instagram. He has high hopes of going to the Olympics one day. It was modeled on Vauxhall City Farm, and they liked that it was easily available and that kids could go there.

And then there was the soundtrack, which was hard to nail down. The team must have listened to hundreds of options. They definitely knew they didn’t want to pick a (presumably) 60’s or 70’s soul track. Instead, they opted for the 90s classic ‘Sweet Harmony’ by Liquid, which had been in their back pocket since the creative process began.

“There is also a laborious line, which is past, present, and eternal,” Savage reports. “To tie myself back to that era musically felt like a way to connect with the place and the history of the bag.”

Finally, the creators reiterate that all the best things that come out of the UK are youth culture and the film is a celebration of that.

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