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K-Swiss Uses Fictional Kenny Powers In Ads

Willie Mays Hays and his Indians team made a commercial imploring American Express customers not to “steal home without it” in the movie “Major League.”And Jamie Foxx’s Willie Beamon character was pitching MetRX in “Any Given Sunday.”But those ads were using fictional characters in a fictional setting.

But how about using a fictional character in a real setting?

"So we thought, ‘Who is a person known for his unfiltered straight talk?’ And that’s Kenny." -K-Swiss, David Nichols

That’s exactly what K-Swiss is doing by featuring Kenny Powers, a former professional baseball pitcher who becomes a substitute middle school physical education teacher, in its advertising. The HBO show, called “Eastbound and Down” is produced by Will Ferrell’s production company Gary Sanchez Production and the actor who players Powers is Danny McBride.

Beginning today, ads featuring McBride as Powers — and also including Jeremy Shockey, Patrick Willis and MMA fighter Urijah Faber — will roll out on the ESPN series of networks and Versus as well as the Comedy Channel, FX and MTV.

The campaign also includes billboards in Times Square and Venice Beach, a campaign micro-site, New York City subway posters and a 1-888 number where callers can call and hear an inspirational message from Powers.

Source: ESPN Magazine

Some of the ads hit YouTube last nightand got a big boost after Kanye West tweeted a spot out to his 380,000 followers.

So why go with Powers?

“We wanted to talk to the young male consumer in advertising our product Tubes,” said David Nichols, executive vice president of the brand. “So we thought, ‘Who is a person known for his unfiltered straight talk?’ And that’s Kenny.”

Nichols said that he wasn’t sure that that he could get the rights to use McBride’s character. But in the end, HBO and Ferrell’s company realized that, given the media buy for the advertising, it was a winning situation for all. The show's second season premieres on Sept. 26.

K-Swiss Tubes product came out last Spring, but this is the brand’s biggest advertising push. The product retails for $75. Over the past six months, shares of the brand are up 34 percent.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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