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Can eBay make Love Island fans fall head over heels for circular fashion?

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By Ellen Ormesher | Senior Reporter

May 24, 2023 | 9 min read

We catch up with the online marketplace, which will replace JustEat as Love Island’s headline sponsor, and with broadcaster ITV to find out how one of the nation’s most beloved shows can help change the narrative around secondhand shopping.

EbayxLove Island

Ebay has replaced JustEat as Love Island’s headline sponsor / Dept

The UK buys an estimated two tons of clothing every minute and this passion for fashion comes at a climate cost, with the global sector accounting for up to 10% of all global emissions.

At one time, Love Island was the zenith of fast fashion, with giants of the sector such as I Saw It First and Boohoo synonymous with the hit reality dating show for seven years of its run – from supplying the contestant’s wardrobes to occupying the sought-after advertising slots, not to mention the well-documented islander to fast fashion influencer pipeline.

So despite not being each other’s type on paper, when the show selected Ebay as its exclusive fashion partner in 2022, it was well-received by viewers and sustainability advocates alike. For the first time in the show’s history, contestants only had access to a shared wardrobe of secondhand items, curated for them by then-stylist, now Ebay’s newly appointed pre-loved style director, Amy Bannerman.

Speaking on Ebay’s transition from partner to headline sponsor, Simon Daglish, ITV’s deputy commercial managing director describes “a two-year learning curve” as to how to showcase and publicize clothing that “doesn’t have a label on it.”

The show is its own beast. ITV’s most popular by a significant margin, it amassed over 273m views in 2022, beating even the broadcaster’s World Cup coverage for the top slot. And with such a cult following in the 18-34 age range, Daglish says ITV was wrestling with how to use its cultural prominence for good. “We were questioning ourselves around whether, on such an influential show, fast fashion was really where we needed to be.”

Secondhand shopping “is still quite nascent in the UK,” he says. Although the show’s demographic of 18-34 year-olds does have the highest percentage of pre-loved items in their wardrobe – around 22% on average, they are also the biggest consumers of fast fashion.

The audience already on its pre-loved journey starts in two categories, Daglish explains, “the university-educated young audiences, and the so-called fashionistas.” But the show’s appeal is much broader than that, “it appeals to people in Bradford and Birmingham and Manchester, who like to go out on a Saturday night and get dressed up – and they are the ones who we believe have the biggest potential to engage in pre-loved fashion.”

Kirsty Keoghan, global general manager of fashion at Ebay, says it’s a natural evolution, as viewers already look to the show for fashion inspiration, so “it’s great to be getting the message out there that you can still get incredible quality and stylish items, but for much less of a cost to wallets - and the planet - by opting for pre-loved.”

And in the two seasons Ebay has already been on the island, the partnership has proved to be fruitful. “When Ebay returned for season nine as a pre-loved fashion partner, we were able to introduce our offering beyond just fashion, to include our Imperfects range (think of it as fashion’s equivalent to wonky veg, items with small defects which are otherwise good as new) and authenticated sneakers into the villa wardrobe,” Keoghan explains.

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“From season eight to season nine of the show, we saw over 1,400% more searches for ‘pre-loved fashion’ on the platform - it just shows the incredible impact of the partnership on consumer shopping habits.”

But the impact of the partnership has extended far beyond the walls of the villa, with the show’s infamous ability to transform ex-contestants into influencers now moving into the circular fashion space. Popular season eight contestant, Tasha Ghouri went on to become an Ebay ambassador and when season nine ended, contestant Tom Clare was also brought in to vouch for secondhand menswear. Keoghan asks, “Did you know 51% of males admit to never or rarely purchasing second-hand clothing? We wanted to change that narrative and really put Tom at the forefront of driving those conversations.”

In the run-up to season 10, where Ebay will return as headline sponsor, she says “We’re really excited to continue to continue those conversations and we’ve got some really exciting things in store.” Though Ebay did not comment on what viewers can expect from the upcoming idents surrounding this year’s show.

Susie Braun, ITV’s director of social purpose adds that viewing the show’s contestants as influencers allows audiences to see the pre-loved message, “beyond an advertisement, and as something didactic and accessible.”

It’s an approach ITV is taking across its programming, because as Braun says, “When audiences take a step in the right direction, and brands take a step, then we all do.”

But Daglish concedes that the broadcaster must exercise caution when it comes to cutting out any and all advertisers perceived as unsustainable. “Our audience is so broad, we have to be very careful with our messaging. If we start telling them what to do, they’ll ignore us, so we have to be persuasive yet subtle.”

For this reason, ITV won’t be removing all carbon-heavy advertisers from Love Island’s advertising slots. “Jet2 is still a very big partner on the show, but the show is about travel and holidays so we have to balance these things out. We can’t become too preachy or we lose the audience.”

Braun explains that ITV’s approach now prioritizes modeling sustainable behaviors across its content in subtle ways. “If you watch Emerdale, you’ll see someone charging an electric car in the background, you’ll never see a disposable coffee cup in any of our soaps. It’s stitched into ITV which makes it a welcoming place for brands who want to place those messages.”

Want to learn more about the most important issue of our time? Senior reporter Ellen Ormesher will explore the role of advertising and marketing in the climate crisis. Case studies, tips, interviews and more. Register your interest here.

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