Super Bowl Ad Watch: With Space Trips, Axe Strives for ‘Something That’s Epic’


The Axe Apollo Big Game Sweepstakes is “the most ambitious thing we’ve ever done with the brand” in Axe’s 30-year existence, Matthew McCarthy, senior brand development director for Axe North America, told brandchannel. 

And it’s no wonder: the plan is to launch 22 people into space — or at least up to 64 miles, achieving weightlessness for up to six minutes — next year.

But don’t pin this envelope-pushing campaign on any desire by the Unilever-owned brand to try to one-up Red Bull’s recent Stratos stunt, in which Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner fell more than 128,000 feet to Earth.[more]

“We were planning [the Axe space-flight campaign] for a long time” before Red Bull’s promotion, McCarthy said. “We love what Red Bull did, but what we’re doing is actually very different. Space is pretty big.”

Besides promoting the new Axe Apollo line of grooming products, he said, the brand’s goal is to “do something that’s really big” for its customers — “something that’s epic.” The launch will “spark dialogue and a connection between guys and girls,” McCarthy said, “and that’s what we strive for.”

Axe’s first appearance in Super Bowl advertising, with its Apollo-oriented message, is meant to promote that sense of scale.

In the promotion, contestants will plead their case online for becoming astronauts. About 100 finalists will be selected for a “space camp” on the basis of popular vote. The brand and the transport company, Space Expedition Corp., will select winners.

“The spirit of this promotion is to give everyday guys an opportunity to actually go into space,” McCarthy said. “We want all different types of people to step forward for the chance — we don’t have some sort of Axe litmus test. We want anyone who’s got a passion for going to space and who thinks that would be the trip of a lifetime.”

According to the fine print for the contest, winners “must be aware of and assume all risk for participation and understand all the dangers and risks inherent in this type of prize activity.” They must also meet physical requirements and pass other tests in order to board the flights, which are expected to take off from Curacao beginning in 2014.

“It’s serious business, and ensuring safety is our top priority,” said McCarthy. The promotion “has to be safe to grow” in the future.