Axe lets Raptors fans play like Fred VanVleet

To reach attention-split Gen Z men, the personal care brand is focusing on unique experiences relevant to their passions.
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Axe is looking to grab the attention of Gen Z men by giving them the opportunity to play on the same court as one of their role models.

The Unilever-owned brand recently worked with MLSE to completely redesign the practice court at the Scotiabank Arena, with a decor inspired by its new Axe Wild product line. It also gave Raptors fans a unique opportunity to visit and play on the court, allowing them to sign up for a timeslot online to recreate some of the most memorable shots made by star player Fred VanVleet. The three visitors who make the most shots will be given the opportunity to re-attempt the plays on the main Scotiabnak Arena court during a Raptors game. The activation was amplified with influencer partnerships and paid digital and social content.

Axe has leveraged its status as the official deodorant and male grooming partner for the Toronto Raptors over the past six years with several players and MLSE properties – most recently, the off-beat “What The Fred?” campaign, also featuring VanVleet. Amanda D’Ortenzio, senior brand manager for Axe at Unilever Canada, says the team’s recent success and growing popularity has made the team event more relevant among its target of Gen Z men, and it has been looking for “unexpected and impactful” executions to further get their attention.

“It’s hard getting a young guy’s attention,” she says. “Beyond shrinking attention spans, their passions for sports, gaming, and urban culture means they’re constantly moving from one thing to the next. The tried and true doesn’t tend to resonate with this target. So, to get them to pay attention, we knew we needed something relatable, new and exclusive to give our guy the edge in a world where social currency is king.”

The target, D’Ortenzio says, is interested in things that are “unique and exclusive,” as they are particularly interested in social currency, spending as much as six hours per day on mobile devices. VanVleet in particular, D’Ortenzio says, resonates especially well with the target, as he is someone they already look up to.

“Our guy does not gravitate to brands that tell him who he is, how he should think or what he should believe in,” D’Ortenzio says. “He avoids advertising, has ad blockers enabled, skips content, and is overall skeptical about which products to purchase. The younger guy is arguably one of the hardest groups to market to and paid media is not enough to draw him in, especially when he is bombarded with so many messages each day. For Axe to breakthrough to our guy…we need to support the passion points, people and lifestyles that our guy values.”

Giving its targets positive role models has been something Axe has leaned on in recent years, as it has looked to modernize its brand image from the one it had crafted in the early 2000s.

Axe worked with MLSE, Edelman, Mindshare and Victory on the campaign.