Having both made their debut in the 1960s, Calvin Klein and the Super Bowl are American icons. Now, after 40-something years in the fashion business and more than a decade of being owned by retail conglomerate Phillips-Van Heusen, Calvin Klein is finally scoring a spot [above] on the game's advertising roster.
The global fashion brand's 30-second commercial is set to air at the end of the first quarter and feature Calvin Klein Concept, a new line of underwear. Concept's stretchy, "you-don't-even-know-you're-wearing-underwear" style equate to women's seamless panties, but are for men.
Fabien Baron of the boutique agency Baron & Baron directed the black-and-white spot, and it stars model Matthew Terry, who flexes Mr. Universe-style muscles throughout the 16-second preview. The concept is meant to emphasize the underwear's second-skin feeling in an ultra-macho, my-body-is-a-machine way. (Steven Klein shot the print campaign.)
"We are a brand with a rich advertising legacy and we firmly believe in powerful, multi-platform lifestyle advertising to support and grow the brand's image around the world," said Tom Murry, president-CEO of Calvin Klein, which calls the spot "a significant milestone."
Of course, David Beckham has already come between the Super Bowl and its Calvins. Last year, retailer H&M ran a spot in the Big Game [below] for the soccer star's bodywear line showing him modeling the product. The commercial will continue to air on CBS following the Super Bowl, and will also appear on ABC and ESPN.
As for Calvin Klein, it's known for its provocative ads -- from Brooke Shields and her jeans in the 1980s to Kate Moss's heroine-chic spots for CK One in the '90s. But this time around, it's more than just a cool commercial. It's about strategic global positioning. In October, PVH Corp., which controls design and product development for the Calvin Klein brands, announced it was in the process of acquiring Warnaco, which controlled the Calvin Klein Underwear and Calvin Klein Jeans licenses, for $2.9 billion. "By making this high-profile marketing investment, PVH is demonstrating its commitment to fueling the growth of the entirety of the Calvin Klein franchise and illustrating the first step toward a more unified brand vision," said Manny Chirico, chairman-CEO of PVH Corp. in October, 2012, the time of the announcement.
The Super Bowl spot is the first example of advertising under the new regime. While most fashion brands stay away from the event -- opting to put more money on the Oscars instead -- this commercial appeals to both men and women, who are both around on Super Bowl Sunday. "It's not just something that guys watch," says Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys, New York. "You're getting a large audience, and the values are being reinforced in the venue." Indeed, what better event to run a commercial featuring athletic muscle men?
Calvin Klein plans to pull every social-media lever out there on Sunday, running promotions on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and YouTube, as well as Vine, the new video service from Twitter. And its success on those platforms will be measured just as closely as the actual commercial. Said Mr. Passikoff: "How it performs off the field is going to be just as important."
So which spot performs better -- Beckham's or Calvin Klein's? You decide.
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