Product Launch:Sox slugger helps energize Gillette's M3Power initiative

Gillette, widely regarded as a leader in men's grooming products, was set to unveil the M3Power on May 24.

Gillette, widely regarded as a leader in men's grooming products, was set to unveil the M3Power on May 24.

The micro-powered shaving system delivers gentle pulses to the cartridge that stimulate hair up and away from the skin to provide a close, thorough shave. Given the ultra-competitive nature of the sector, the Fortune 500 company realized the importance of capturing the attention of men everywhere. To do that, Gillette tapped into its sports marketing tradition.

Strategy

Gillette has maintained long-standing ties to major sports entities, such as the New England Patriots, who play their home games at Gillette Stadium. For the M3Power, the company focused on Boston's ultimate sports institution - the Red Sox. And, as fate would have it, one of the team's most popular players - Johnny Damon - really needed a shave.

Fans have affectionately nicknamed Damon "Caveman" for his refusal to shave his thick beard since his arrival at spring training in February. Anticipation was growing about when the star center fielder might finally lose the facial hair.

"You have this hometown baseball star who, quite frankly, needed to shave," says Michele Szynal, communications director at Gillette. "We needed to reach a broad male audience. It was a natural fit."

Armed with this concept, Gillette turned to Alan Taylor Communications (ATC), which had worked with Gillette for a dozen years.

Tactics

Right off the bat, ATC zeroed in on Sox fans' fanaticism about their team and Damon, who donated his appearance fee to ReadBoston, a literacy campaign whose mission is to ensure that every Boston child can read at grade-level by third grade.

"A public launch event like this would truly resonate with fans, which, in turn, would entice media interest," explains Matt Ciesluk, account supervisor at ATC.

The event was held at noon on May 21 - three days before M3Power's national rollout - at Boylston Plaza at the Prudential Center, a popular lunchtime spot. Tom Caron, the New England Sports Network's pre- and post-game host for all Sox games, emceed the festivities.

Confident that fans would be excited, ATC turned its focus on the media. It pitched sports, metro, and business reporters, photographers from the city's two major dailies, the Herald and Globe, as well as Red Sox beat reporters and TV and radio broadcast outlets. A b-roll package was also distributed to network news feeds and relevant national sports shows.

Results

The event, attended by more than 1,000 Sox fans, drew all 10 Boston network news affiliates and cable outlets - including two that covered the event live during their noon newscasts - as well as a Japanese TV crew. Three of the market's top radio stations also covered the event. In addition to next-day front-page coverage in The Boston Globe and Boston Herald, Sports Illustrated, the New York Daily News, the AP, and the Toronto Star all covered the event.

Damon did live interviews with ESPNews, ESPN Radio's The Dan Patrick Show (329 national affiliates), and WEEI-AM, Boston's main all-sports radio station. "Johnny became a big M3Power fan," reports Ciesluk, "and continually mentioned it during appearances. "The b-roll package yielded 356 broadcast hits nationally, including CNN Headline News and MSNBC's The Keith Olbermann Show.

In all, the event generated 723 hits and garnered more than 95 million media impressions. Inasmuch as the M3Power has only been on the market for just over two months, Szynal admits it is hard to measure the event's impact on sales. However, Szynal does report that sales are ahead of plan.

Future

There are no immediate plans for Gillette and ATC to work on any further M3Power initiatives. However, Szynal says, if any sports angle develops for this or any Gillette product, ATC will implement the effort.

PR team: The Gillette Company (Boston) and Alan Taylor Communications (New York)

Campaign: Gillette M3Power launch event

Time frame: May 1 to 21, 2004

Budget: Approx. $100,000

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