Love Island’s iconic status as a cultural phenomenon is hard to argue against. The programme’s popularity has steadily increased since first airing in 2015 – more than 3m viewers tuned into 2021’s finale, compared to the first season’s 737,000.
It promises a bunch of young supposed romantics a chance to find true love (or the twenty-first century equivalent). But it also represents a springboard from which these contestants can achieve fame and fortune. A host of Love Island alumni have established themselves as leading social influencers – just look at Molly-Mae Hague and Amber Gill.
But it is Love Island’s former sponsors that take some of the shine away from the show. Its history of partnering with fast fashion retailers with a chequered relationship with the environment has caused the show’s reputation to take a hit.
This comes at a time when the fashion industry, and indeed society as a whole, has reached a crossroads. The need for more environmentally conscious practices is evident – 87% of the total clothing fibre eventually ends up in landfills. It appears that Love Island has been listening. The brand recently announced eBay as this season’s main partner, a groundbreaking move built on sense.
Love Island was 2021’s most watched digital programme amongst 16-34 year olds. And with eBay’s own numbers showing that 18-24 year olds possess the largest collection of pre-owned apparel, this has the potential to be a match made in heaven.
So why is this partnership so important for the environment – and how can both Love Island and eBay promote a positive, sustainable message moving forward?
Times are changing
The pandemic put an end to almost a decade of uninterrupted growth for the fast fashion industry. Its global market value fell to £23bn, a 12% decline from pre-pandemic levels.
Forecasts predict that the market is on the road to recovery – revenue is expected to hit £28bn by 2023. And whilst Love Island isn’t solely responsible for this renaissance, it must take some responsibility. The show has been more than happy to promote unsustainable clothing in the past – remember the eye-wateringly cheap swimwear advertised in 2019?
A cultural shift in attitudes is required if we are to achieve a greener future. YouGov’s 2021 report highlighted that 63% of the UK population had second-hand clothing in their wardrobes. But 52% of this group acknowledged that pre-owned apparel only accounted for between 1-10% of their total wardrobe.
Love Island has an opportunity to accelerate this eco-friendly movement. The partnership with eBay is a significant commitment. Having contestants wearing second-hand clothes during episodes can help increase environmental consciousness amongst consumers.
But the work doesn’t stop when the television is switched off. eBay also needs to evolve its online presence.
The influencer effect
Amber Gill won an exclusive deal with MissPap – an ecommerce fashion site – when she was crowned champion of Love Island in 2019. Molly-Mae Hague’s success on the show saw her become PrettyLittleThing’s UK and EU Creative Director.
These are just two examples of Love Island contestants that have gone on to capitalise on their newfound stardom through the influencer channel. This marketing medium is becoming increasingly powerful – the global market value is expected to hit $16.4bn by the end of 2022, up from $1.7bm in 2016.
eBay can, and must,follow a similar route. Leveraging its partnership status to promote an eco-friendly message to the masses will help cement Love Island’s new sustainable position.
Increased sales should also help achieve this result. Previous Love Island sponsors have experienced huge surges in website visitors from the show’s fans. Missguided reported a 97% increase in online traffic from Love Island viewers – Boohoo and Shein also benefited with 75% and 117% boosts respectively.
The numbers are all on eBay’s side – but both brands need to know how far they should go if they are to maximise the effect of their new relationship. Love Island has been synonymous with fast fashion for over seven years, a reputation that won’t disappear with a click of its fingers – or a shiny new partnership.
Focusing on changing viewer’s perceptions of second-hand clothing is a promising start. After that, it will take time to establish itself as an environmental advocate.
Slow & steady wins the race
Love Island is an integral part of modern society and the brand’s decision to distance itself from the fast fashion world is not one to take lightly. But there needs to be an asterisk placed beside its partnership with eBay. The move won’t transform the fashion industry in a single day.
Committing to pre-owned clothing is an exciting starting point – now both Love Island and eBay need to deliver on the big stage. Millions of viewers will be tuning into the show on a daily basis. Delivering a subtle green message throughout – as well as utilising eco-friendly social influencers post-programme – is crucial if the brands are going to walk into the sunset hand in hand.
Amy Bryson, chief marketing officer at Iris