Super Bowl

Unilever Returns to Super Bowl With Commercial to Sharpen Axe Products

Consumer Giant Previously Used Game for Dove Men, Sunsilk

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Unilever's Axe has joined the ranks of Super Bowl advertisers for the first time.

Unilever has been in the big game before but, perhaps surprisingly, Axe has not.
Unilever has been in the big game before but, perhaps surprisingly, Axe has not.

The male-grooming products brand will run a 30-second spot in the game, Unilever said in a statement Monday. The timing of the appearance during the event has not been locked down, a spokesman said via email.

The spot, created by BBH London, is entitled "Lifeguard" and includes a twist that syncs up with a larger creative campaign scheduled to begin in January, the company said.

An ad for a line of male-focused shower gels, hair-care products and deodorants would seem to make perfect sense for the Super Bowl, whose audience typically skews male. Axe's ads are known for their use of ribald humor and snarky commentary on how Axe products can make a guy more attractive to the opposite sex. And Unilever has tested the event before: In 2010, it used the so-called "Big Game" to introduce a line of Dove cleaning products aimed at men.

In years past, however, the consumer-products giant has run against the grain, using the Super Bowl as a place to market products to women. In 2008, for instance, Unilever aired an ad for its Sunsilk shampoo that incorporated images of Madonna, Shakira and Marylin Monroe.

Unilever appears eager to use the 2013 event as a launching pad for an extended campaign. "We have some extraordinary news to announce in 2013, taking our interaction with our fans to new heights, so the Super Bowl became the obvious platform to share it with the world," said Gaston Vaneri, brand director for Axe, in the company's statement.

The Unilever spokesman said the campaign news in the Super Bowl commercial will be relevant to men and to women.

Digital extensions seem likely: The company advised consumers to "follow Axe on Facebook and Twitter" in the days leading up to the Super Bowl for more information on the marketing effort.

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