Best brand use of celebrity athletes: Dove & Sport Chek

These macho men were the perfect match for each brand.

There are two archetypal athlete endorsements: the global superstar as Mr. or Mrs. Everyperson and the powerful physical specimen capable of amazing athletic feats. Think Peyton Manning and MasterCard, or Michael Jordan and Coca-Cola. Our athlete spokespeople of the year walk either side of that divide perfectly. They are both burly, fierce competitors from Western Canada, but one has mellowed while the other rampages through his athletic prime.

Dove sought perhaps the most manly Canadian, Wendel Clark, to convince Canadian men to care for their skin. To change perceptions about the manliness of moisturizing, Dove turned to an athlete with whom middle-aged men can relate. A former NHL scrapper nicknamed Captain Crunch and Toronto Maple Leafs hero, Clark is now chubbier, balder but every bit as rugged. The message is simple: if it’s okay for Wendel Clark to use sensitive skin bodywash, it’s okay for any guy. Dove’s Men+Care campaign featured Clark (and fellow ex-NHLer Guy Carbonneau) in the “Real Men Challenge,” a series of live executions at NHL games across the country.

The brand ran a national TV spot, with Ogilvy handling creative, Mindshare on the media buy and Harbinger doing PR, featuring Clark doing everyperson things: at home with his family and dog and riding a Zamboni in a small-town arena. The tagline says it all: “Dove Men+Care, made for Wendel. Made for men.”

On the other side of the coin, Sport Chek used Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie to help “brand itself in an aggressive way,” according to CEO Michael Medline. The brash, tattooed baseballer has clashed with umpires and endeared himself to fans as the best Canadian on Canada’s team. Lawrie features heavily in Sport Chek’s ongoing transformation toward a more digital marketing focus, laden with imagery of his powerful swing. He stars in a series of YouTube spots where he answers questions from Twitter fans, including one about whether he is responsible for a newfound “Canadian swagger.”

Each video logged several thousand views and earned mentions on popular blogs like The Score’s Drunk Jays Fans. The fan fave has a two-year deal with Sport Chek and will feature even more prominently in the retailer’s marketing next year, with Sid Lee on the creative and Touché!PHD on the media planning.

Correction: This article was updated after its original publish date to show that Mindshare, not Capital C, handled the media buy on Dove’s Wendel Clark campaign.