When Unilever’s AXE brand, a world leader in male grooming products, launched its new line of hair paint, it set out to do more than sell hair products. The brand went on a mission to help guys feel more confident about who they are. As AXE sees it, young men should never be afraid to fully embrace their true selves — through what they wear, how they style their hair, and by highlighting the qualities that are unique to them. However, research has shown that some guys stay away from styling because they fear being bullied.
In an effort to reach Gen Z guys with its new hair paint, while also promoting individuality and helping them to feel comfortable styling their hair, AXE announced #AXEpressYourself. This social initiative challenged guys to express themselves and experiment with new hairstyles and colors to support a good cause: anti-bullying organization Ditch the Label.
Getting the Word Out
In order to get the word out around its new hair paint and partnership with Ditch the Label, AXE knew it needed to engage members of Gen Z and their parents in a multi-faceted way. The brand wanted to maximize its reach when it came to product sampling, while also heavily promoting social sharing around the product and its support of Ditch the Label. In evaluating its options, AXE realized that the key to success on both fronts was to align its brand with youth sports.
To meet these objectives, AXE partnered with LeagueSide for youth sports sponsorships in 14 key markets across the country, with the goal of reaching 75,000 Gen Z soccer and lacrosse players and 130,000 parents with its unique, multidimensional message.
A Multichannel Campaign for a Multidimensional Message
AXE’s support for youth sports through LeagueSide bridged the online and offline worlds through key in-person promotions and email and social media extensions. Through its sponsorship of soccer and lacrosse leagues and tournaments around the country, AXE surpassed its reach goals by connecting with 85,000 players and 150,000 parents through a combination of physical branding via signage and jerseys, digital communications via email and social, and on-site activation elements including sampling, camera booths, and selfie stations.
For every hairstyle pic shared on social with the #AXEpressYourself hashtag, AXE donated $1 to Ditch the Label, a non-profit dedicated to helping young people struggling with self-confidence and self-expression. The brand also distributed free samples of its styling and washable hair paint gel so athletes could experiment and show off their new styles.
Results That Went Above and Beyond
Through its LeagueSide sponsorships, AXE achieved a 46% lift in brand favorability and an 84% improvement in brand sentiment, with 44% attribution of brand awareness to youth sports sponsorship.
The campaign also over-delivered on other key metrics:
- AXE surpassed its reach goal by more than 15%, reaching more than 205,000 Gen Z athletes and their parents.
- Across all activations, more than 75,000 product samples were distributed.
- More than 2,000 #AXEpressYourself photos were taken and shared across social.
Perhaps most importantly, AXE’s efforts contributed to 1,200 more kids being able to participate in youth sports as a result of reduced costs through the AXE sponsorship. These 1,200 kids represented youth athletes who otherwise would not have been able to participate due to the financial burden.
Ultimately, AXE’s unique sponsorship of youth sports enabled it to connect with kids and parents in a meaningful way. While the selfie stations and in-person activations proved both fun and memorable, the real difference became evident in AXE’s ability to deliver important support and resources to local communities.