The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: J.C. Penney Vs. Sports Authority

Discussion
Nov 22, 2013

Two commercials: Each created with the goal of drumming up consumer excitement and driving traffic and sales.

In the fifth episode of the RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge, we offer up new spots from J.C. Penney and Sports Authority for you to critique. (Toys "R" Us won in week one; Best Buy in week two; Kmart in week three and Kohl’s in week four.) At the end of the holiday season, we will put all the winners from the ongoing competition up for a vote to determine the merchant with the most to be cheerful about during this season of stress and, hopefully, cheer.

Which is better? You decide.

[Image: Santa Baby]

[Image: Unplug]

What do you think of J.C. Penney’s “Santa Baby” and Sports Authority’s “Unplug” commercials? Which will do the best job of reinforcing the individual retailer’s brand and driving business this holiday season?

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14 Comments on "The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: J.C. Penney Vs. Sports Authority"


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Joan Treistman
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

I like the message Sports Authority conveys. It’s about kids engaged in sports and not technology, something that resonates with moms and dads. The narrative is pleasant and the video well constructed to maintain interest and delight. And the various sports depicted offer several opportunities to trigger an emotion that connects moms, dads, kids and Sports Authority. The final scene that talks about the availability of top brands builds the brand equity associated with Sports Authority and reinforces its relevance to parents and other adults shopping for their kids (and each other).

In contrast the JCPenney commercial is almost abrasive with conflicting sounds and imagery of the shopper and chorus. This distracts from any overriding message of products or sale information. It’s reflective of the retailer still uncertain of which direction is more effective.

I believe that Sports Authority’s “Unplug” will generate more revenue with their commercial.

Max Goldberg
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

I like the Sports Authority ad. It’s different from most retailers’ holiday-themed ads. By appealing to parents’ desires to get their kids away from screens, it differentiates SA from the holiday offerings of other retailers.

Ian Percy
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

I just wish I thought Sports Authority was actually an “authority.” In my experience of trying to get real advice I’ve found them to be simply a store that sells stuff. No informed advice and certainly no wisdom that I could see. Might as well have bought shoes at Walmart.

That aside, their commercial has a lot more spiritual meaning in it than the JCP one – by that I mean it makes you think a little about what we’re allowing technology to do to our lives.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

I enjoyed both commercials for what they were presenting. My nod this week will go to Sports Authority. It is on point and directed at those of us who need more outside activity in our life; especially the younger generations.

I will add to this that I saw a Kmart commercial with someone literally screaming unintelligibly saying nothing worth hearing that made me want to turn off the television. I don’t understand what some of these ad agencies are attempting to achieve; but there are more losers than winners so far this season.

Mohamed Amer
Guest
Mohamed Amer
8 years 6 months ago
What an interesting comparison you’ve set up here. The J.C. Penney spot is communicating a 48 hour sale (and to make sure you didn’t forget, the singer in the front row is holding the sale flyer) with 1500 door busters and an extra 15% off. Wait a minute, those are actually between 3 pm Friday and 1 pm Saturday. The spot is trying to mix holiday feel good and using Eartha Kitt’s 1953 “Santa Baby” lyrics, suggests a blurring of the line between naughty and nice (“I’ve been an awful good girl”), and hits with examples of promos. It tries to say too many things, pays too little attention to the brand itself and more to a specific time-fenced event. Well, maybe it does begin to say that promos and sales are back to stay at J. C. Penney. Will it stick out from the rest of the holiday shopping spots? Probably not. Will it get some shoppers to check out J. C. Penney this weekend that would otherwise not have planned to do so?… Read more »
Steve Montgomery
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

My vote is for the Sports Authority’s ad. It talks about Christmas and buying gifts without an overly heavy sales pitch. I like the idea the it emphasizes people doing something with other people in an unplugged way.

Lee Peterson
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

In either case, to me, the in-store experience/execution doesn’t match the lovely brand vision in the ads. Cluttered, confusing stores with cheap goods vs. feel-good lifestyle ads. They should both look to Target, who’s stores have finally caught up to their media expression. Many consumers will roll their eyes when seeing these ads, IMO.

Chris Petersen, PhD
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

Ultimately, a major purpose of a TV ad is to create a memorable message that motivates the consumer to at least visit the retailer.

While J.C.Penney’s ad wasn’t nearly as offensive as the Kmart ad (or their recent Jingle Bells fiasco!), I honestly can’t remember what was featured in their ad. My impression from their ad was, don’t forget to shop J.C. Penny at the last minute for lowest prices.

So in that context, the Sports Authority ad wins this contest. Parents want to give their kids more than gadgets. They already see their children with heads down on smartphones at meal time. So SA’s message of giving them something more through sports resonates well and reinforces the retailer’s brand.

In this head to head ad contest, there is no contest … Sports Authority ad hands down winner.

Dr. Paul Helman
Guest
Dr. Paul Helman
8 years 6 months ago

I agree with most of the comments so far, and vote for the Sports Authority ad. Being a computer scientist, I love gifts that don’t require knowing what operating systems and upgrades I need! The commercial’s content also has a strong connection to the product, which is actually painfully atypical.

The J.C. Penny ad was OK on the one viewing. But I imagine that it will indeed come to seem quite abrasive by the 1,000th viewing in mid-December.

Larry Negrich
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

I did enjoy both and see both as having very different immediate purposes and goals. JCP’s succeeds in promoting a limited time period and items. I imagine they will be using the same intro and subbing out the promotional period and offers. With their target core audience, I think this will play OK. Would have been nice to modernize the song a bit and broaden the appeal.

Sports Authority has a message that I think has some legs beyond the holiday period. I liked the flow and feel of the commercial too, and how it concludes with the parent and child participating in a sport together. I think this one will work best — it gets my vote.

Jay Townley
Guest
Jay Townley
8 years 6 months ago

These two commercials are aimed at different groups of shoppers, so a head to head comparison is difficult. The J.C. Penney spot is a bit old fashion, but it does target younger women with a multi-generational, multi-ethnic singing group that doesn’t leave anyone out.

The Sports Authority spot is also well crafted with a multi-generational, multi-ethnic cast and targets the whole family of sports participants. And it has an emotional aspect to it that I think takes it a step above the Penney’s spot.

David Livingston
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

I will rate them as equal. All both commercials did was remind consumers they are still in business.

Karen S. Herman
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

Sports Authority’s “All Things Sporting Good” holiday commercial is very refreshing and I like the themes of family, teamwork and healthy living that it conveys. Definitely invites the entire family to get out and play and, for a sporting goods retailer, there is no better message.

Am sad to say that I found “Santa Baby” from J.C. Penney to be contrived. It struck me as a rather odd offering, period.

Lee Kent
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

While I love the song “Santa Baby,” alas it was just an ad and could have been for anyone.

Sports Authority, on the other hand, knocked it out of the park on so many levels! They sold me on sports first, then the brand!

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