Axe enlists Kyle Lowry to help young men ‘stay chill’

The Toronto Raptor talks about an embarrassing moment as part of the brand's more modern portrayals of masculinity.


Axe has again turned to Toronto Raptors’ Kyle Lowry, this time to help it show young Canadian men that confidence is something that takes time to develop, even for one of the country’s top basketball stars.

Launched in the midst of a Toronto Raptors’ playoff run, the animated spot created by agency Sid Lee flashes back to Lowry’s childhood, showing a moment where an attempt to show off during a game backfired and resulted in an embarrassing misstep. He relays advice that was given to him in that moment, which has helped him stay calm even as the stakes have gotten higher in his professional career.

The campaign is promoting Axe’s “Ice Chill” line of grooming products, which create a cooling sensation when used. The campaign featuring Lowry utilizes the “You’re Hotter When You’re Chill” tagline and “whoa! whoa! whoa!” narrative device that is being used in the broader campaign for the product line, but takes cues from streetwear, basketball culture and the presence of a local sports star to bring the platform to the Canadian market.

Beyond tying into the North American platform, the campaign is part of the Axe brand’s ongoing efforts to be more socially conscious. For the last several years, Axe has been making efforts to portray a more modern approach to masculinity and gets away away from spots that tended to focus on seducing women. While the target for the brand remains young men, it has been taking a more evolved “confidence” lens, be it through focusing on what has helped entreprenuers succeed, telling guys to be confident with whatever their look and style happens to be or encouraging young men to show appreciation and respect for the achievements of friends. It has also been doing that in “quirkier” ways, such as targeting gamers with ads that encourage them to remain cool during stressful moments.

Ling Chung, senior brand manager for Axe at Unilever Canada, points out that the teenage years are ones that tend to be filled with insecurities, especially when it comes to appearance and social interactions. From a purely functional perspective, she points out that Axe offers products that address that through odor control, which helps its target feel more confident. But on a more emotional level, Jeffrey Da Silva, ECD and partner at Sid Lee Toronto, says focusing on someone like Lowry – who many young men in Canada would look to as a “hero” – is a humanizing approach that helps the target realize that confidence is a learned skill.

“These coming-of-age stories allow us to realize that even the people we admire most struggled to stay chill when they were younger and had to go through a process to develop their confidence,” he says.

In addition to the 30-second video, there is a six-second version that will be running online, with digital display banners being launched later in the spring.