Axe challenges stereotypes on social

The Unilever brand taps two big name athletes to help sell its challenge of traditional masculinity.

Unilever’s Axe brand is once again hoping to challenge perceptions of traditional masculinity through its marketing, this time tapping two pro athletes to help sell its message on social.

The men’s care brand first began shedding some stereotypes in 2015 before last year debuting its “Find your magic” platform, with an aim of shifting perceptions of masculinity and encouraging guys to shine in their own way, even if that isn’t in line with what’s traditionally considered manly. On a global level, last year Unilever announced “#Unstereotype,” its initiative to combat stereotypes of how both men and women are portrayed in advertising.

Whitney Bell, senior brand manager for Axe and men’s grooming at Unilever Canada, says “Find your magic” ultimately led to 70% positive sentiment, well above benchmarks (fellow Unilever brand Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches,” for example,” led to 40% positive sentiment). The Axe platform also led to a 15% lift in brand purchase intent.

Now, the brand has launched a new Canadian-made execution, focused on having young men give each other props on social media (specifically, the brand is after a Gen Z target of Canadian guys in their teens to 25).

The brand as tapped the Toronto Raptors’ Kyle Lowry and Toronto Blue Jay Marcus Stroman – both of whom resonate well with Axe’s target, Bell says – for a slew of social video content featuring the pair complimenting and supporting each other, under the campaign name “#PraiseUp.”

To encourage young guys to do the same, the brand is challenging them to catch themselves on video giving their pals a shout out then share it to Snapchat, Instagram Stories, Facebook or Twitter with the Axe-led hashtag #YouGotSomething.

A study among young men was used to support the campaign, finding that 70% have been told that a “real man” behaves a certain way. Those exposed to that kind of message were also more likely to associate being masculine with being aggressive, attractive and tough.

Among those who said they have supportive male friends, 69% said they’re comfortable giving a compliment to a friend on something they did well, compared with just 47% who say the same thing and claim their friends aren’t supportive.

Axe worked with Sid Lee on the creative for “#PraiseUp,” Mindshare on media and Edelman on PR.