⊗Reader Advisory- Mature Content⊗
Leading brands Puma and JD Sports have come under harsh criticism over their most recent promotional campaign that is based around the theme of a “crackhouse part”. This event was part of Puma’s #runthestreets campaign, with it’s setting being in the controversial “House of Hustle”. Puma is an influential athleisure brand amongst young people, particularly with their history of working with Rihanna, Big Sean and The Weeknd. Though it’s worth noting that JD Sports also targets a much younger audience, with a ‘Kids’ range aimed towards as young as 0 – 2 months. With this audience being susceptible to this campaign, it has the potential of promoting a damaging lifestyle.
On the evening of the event, 220 consumers attended this event that, inspired by council estate drug dealing after signing up for exclusive invitations. As part of the aesthetic, consumers received shoeboxes that were full of fake £50 notes, business cards with the phrase “turn on the trapline” and a scratched “burner’ phone”. When guests switched on the trap phone, a text message came through saying: “Yo G what u sayin today? Pass tru the House of Hustle.” Inside the said “House of Hustle”, were blacked-out windows, graffiti over walls and dirty mattresses laid across the floor.
It wasn’t just like a 2D visual experience. There were live acts and creatives including; barbers, tattooists, jewellers as well as DJs and drill MCs recklessly contributing towards the whole experience. To some people this adds to the controversy, due to the recent rise in knife crime, a blame has been placed onto drill music for being said to glamourise violence. Whether you believe it to be true or not, every aspect of the event appeared to be connected to negativity and flippantly depicting a dangerous image to young people.
Photo courtesy of Alex Synamatix on Instagram (@synamatix)
There’s been a backlash from the public via social media. On Instagram, Alex Synamatix (@synamatix) posted saying that he “had to speak out on this one”, following with a 4 page open letter. Included in his letter was the staggering statistic of “4000 teenagers from London being exploited and trafficked every year to sell drugs”. Not a glamourise statistic in the slightest, Puma. There’s a certain irony that Synamatix picked up on- there were 6 stabbings in 90 minutes on the same night the #runthestreets party took place. Young people were victims to violence on a night that Puma were glamourising it as a cool and desirable lifestyle.
Whilst the entire marketing idea sounds ridiculous on reading it, it’s even more ridiculous to imagine the middle-class executives pitching the idea as a smart one. With the current environment, the working-class youth are struggling daily to make it through contemporary London life. It’s ignorant to attempt to romanticise and focus on a traumatic culture when you do not understand the background behind it. Puma are now being accused of exploiting class, race and drug issues in an extremely distasteful and insensitive manner.
Puma responded to the criticism stating that their intentions were to “celebrate youth culture”, with the certain slang they used in the invitations translating to “hard work” and “hustle”. This multinational brand claim their objection was to showcase “hustlers” within multiple creative industries including; photography, custom jewellery and tattoo artists alongside various DJ sets.
Despite what Puma intended to provoke, they completely missed the target with this one. To ‘celebrate’ youth culture yet select a subject matter that is so damaging to our youth is irresponsible and should not reoccur. Puma appear to be taking advantage of our youth, selling an unrealistic representation of drug dealing to simply sell their pieces and make a profit, whilst London continues to suffer with the war on knife crime and continuous violence.
♠You can check out more from PUMA and they’re #runthestreets campaign through their links:
• This is not sponsored or affiliated content to any of the brands mentioned. All opinions are my own. All images are property of Puma and JD Sports. I am not responsible for the source of the photos beyond these brands. •