Posted by Abe Sauer on August 3, 2010 08:50 AM
For decades, tennis shoe maker K-Swiss has been best known for "The Classic," a white-on-white tennis shoe that so consistently vibes vanilla it has attained icon status. Like the white uppers behind those white stripes, K-Swiss has been content to blend into the background in the color-saturated, loud-as-bombs sneaker category – the brand has grown modestly and profitably (sales in the hundreds of millions of dollars) – letting the athletic-shoe alpha male brands tear each other to pieces.
Well, not anymore it ain't.
In a branding departure so radical it just might work, K-Swiss has teamed up with foul-mouthed pro athlete Kenny Powers to introduce to its new "Tubes" line. The catch? Kenny Powers is only a pro athlete on his fictional HBO satire, Eastbound and Down. Played by comic actor Danny McBride, Powers has become a cult comedy hero, a washed-up, grotesquely bigoted misogynist and ignorant major league baseball pitcher whose best years are behind him. Powers is as un-PC – and as un-K-Swiss Classic – as they come.
In a series of commercials, "Powers" talks up the K-Swiss shoes in his trademark preposterous style.
The campaign was launched in cooperation with the comedy group Funny or Die, founded by McBride's friend and frequent co-star, Will Ferrell. The video will melt your face off but it is very NSFW.
The more SFW commercials match Powers with real-life athletes, including Patrick Willis, Jeremy Shockey and Urijah Faber. The inclusion of Faber, a mixed martial arts fighter, is on-target given K-Swiss' recent acquisition of Form Athletics, a brand specializing in mixed martial arts gear.
Earlier this year, K-Swiss also entered into a marketing partnership with high-energy and higher-profile star trainer of the show The Biggest Loser, Jillian Michaels. Last year, K-Swiss partnered with one of the hunky stars of the show Gossip Girl, Ed Westwick.
It all adds up to a celeb-led incursion into new, more youthful turf. Older fans of the K-Swiss brand may not understand the association with Powers in particular – if it even hits their radar. But K-Swiss clearly has its sights set on both the action sports and youth front, and demonstrates that the brand may be attempting to shake its dignified middle-aged tennis guy image. Still: Keep pumping out those iconic white-on-whites, dudes!