A collaboration between VB and Volley shoes has been the subject of a recent complaint to ABAC, with the panel upholding a single aspect of the complaint.
Inspired by viral April Fools Day joke on social media CUB partnered with Brand Collective, the current manufacturers of the shoe formerly produced by Dunlop, to produce the VB branded Volley shoes.
The Volley x VB sneaker, and VB branded socks, were released for sale in November 2020. ABAC pre-vetting approval was not obtained for the advertising of the product.
The complaint to ABAC argued that the branded shoes promote alcohol, expose underage children and glorify alcohol consumption.
It also suggested that “[the branded shoes] is a marketing strategy to lure the purchase of their shoes and promotes drinking”.
ABAC considered whether the advertising for the VB branded Volleys breach of the code’s placement rules and whether the advertising, and the branded shoes themselves, have strong or evident appeal to minors under the ABAC code.
The company’s response
In its response to the complaint, CUB stated it was actively involved in ensuring the marketing met the ABAC code.
“CUB has been actively involved in ensuring the marketing of these products meets ABAC requirements. Great care has been taken to ensure the marketing is adult in tone, and primarily intended to appeal to an audience over the age of 18, with the target consumer aged 25-34,” it said.
The company also accepted the shoes were within the Code’s scope but did not accept that the product has strong or evident appeal to minors.
“The target demographic for [volley shoes] is the 25-34-year-old age group,” its response said, drawing attention to the shoes only being available in adult sizes, as well as not being available in the ‘Kids’ section of the online store.
CUB also maintained it adhered to the placement rules, saying the website where the shoes are advertised featured no alcohol products, and therefore has no requirement for age restriction controls.
It also sought to highlight that the Volley brand is not one which appeals to minors. its response to ABAC cited the Volley website’s traffic statistics and the “expected” 75% adult viewership. They also said the site contains “adult-focused creative imagery”
In its findings ABAC found that the VB branded shoes are subject to the ABAC code, despite not being an alcohol product and found there is no restriction within the code on alcohol companies employing the technique of brand extensions as such.
“In other words, CUB can enter into an agreement with Brand Collective to have its branding extended to Volley products provided the actual execution of the brand extension and its associated marketing occurs consistently with ABAC requirements.”
ABAC found that the shoes themselves did not breach Part 3 of the code, suggesting that the Volley brand is not significantly popular with those under 18.
“The ABAC standard would be breached if Volley shoes were a product worn primarily by minors,” the panel found.
“A review of internet sources indicates that the sneaker market for minors, particularly teenagers, is dominated by shoes produced by Nike and Adidas.”
“There are a wide range of brands in the under 18-year-old shoe market including Volleys however there is no strong indication that Volleys are currently popular with minors.”
“Volley sales in Australia slumped when the brand was no longer carried by Kmart around a decade ago and that the strongest market for the brand appears to be adults aged 25 to 34. While some minors wear Volleys, the Panel does not believe Volleys are merchandise primarily used by minors.”
The ABAC panel also found the advertising material for VB branded Volleys, communicated through the Volley website, did not breach ABAC code.
“[The website] is not related primarily to alcohol and hence the Placement Rules do not require the website as a whole to be age restricted for alcohol marketing”
The website only needs to be 75% adult traffic to comply.
“CUB advises given that the primary demographic for Volley products are adults aged 25 to 34, it can be reasonably expected that the website meets this requirement,” ABAC said.
The one element of advertising which ABAC did not dismiss, related to an image featuring skateboarding that was included as part of a suite of photographs.
ABAC noted that while the VB branded Volley products may not of themselves be strongly appealing to minors, marketing communications containing images of the products need also to meet the Code standards, finding the skateboarding image is different.
” The Panel has previously examined skateboarding in Determination10/2011 and Determination 51/2018 and noted that while the activity is performed by a range of age groups, the largest cohort is under 18-year old’s e.g., a survey for the City of Melbourne showed 60% of skaters are under 18 and statics on reported injuries from skating indicate the majority of skaters are minors,” the panel noted.
“The Panel believes emphasising the VB branding by showing skateboarding by a person wearing the VB Volleys does breach the Part 3 (b) standard.”
The complaint is upheld in relation to the skateboarding image and otherwise dismissed.