The tabloid that’s best-known for nonsensical front-page stories about double-decker buses buried under the South Pole and endless pages of nude models is apparently re-launching itself next Monday as a cross between a newspaper and a lads’ mag (you may have assumed that this was already the format, but perhaps it’s not quite that classy at the moment).
As part of a complete re-design, the Sport will push the sordid X-rated ads to the back of the paper and beef up its sports coverage. Football will of course figure prominently, though apparently it’s also planning to cover ‘grass roots sports’ like fight clubs (and mud wrestling, perhaps?). With ex-Zoo boss Barry McIlheney and former Loaded editor James Brown at the helm, the Sport claims it is trying to establish itself in a new niche – the daily tabloid aimed squarely at men – and thus attract advertisers keen to hit a young male market.
Sales of the two papers have been sinking faster than its models’ necklines in recent years, so its new owners Sport Media Group (who bought the titles from David Sullivan last year) obviously need to do something radical if they’re going to survive. But we’re not convinced that the young male market is quite as under-served as they’re making out (the Daily Star, anyone?). And given that the papers are widely regarded as the most squalid and tawdry titles on the newsagents’ shelves, we don’t really see how moving to the Zoo model (which seems to involve as much topless totty as the old-style Sport, but in colour) is going to alter perceptions. Changing that kind of brand image will be an uphill struggle.
On the other hand, the ‘adult’ advertising will now be in a separate supplement at the back. So if you’re a respectable company, you might be more likely to run an ad in the front section of the paper, safe in the knowledge that you won’t be right next to an advert for some middle-aged housewife’s phone sex line. So you never know...