Degree Backs TV Series Starring World Cup Contenders

Unilever Brand Works With ESPN Deportes for Its First Major U.S. Hispanic Push

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NEW YORK ( -- In the brand's first major U.S. Hispanic venture, Unilever's Degree Men deodorant is crafting an eight-week TV show around soccer players hoping to qualify for Mexico's World Cup team.

Each episode of "Frente al Reto" ("Face the Challenge") focuses on a different Mexican player, starting this week with Andres Guardado, who is also Degree's spokesman and stars in a commercial for the brand. The series ends March 29 with Jose Francisco "Gringo" Torres, who faces the unusual dual citizenship dilemma of having to choose between the U.S. and Mexican World Cup teams (spoiler alert: he picks the U.S.).

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Mexican soccer player Andres Guardado stars in a Degree spot.

"We talk about the challenges and trials the players go through with the World Cup coming up," said Jay Mathew, marketing director for Degree in the U.S. He worked with the brand's U.S. Hispanic agency, Walton Isaacson, who created the idea and produced the show with Spanish-language cable channel ESPN Deportes.

Mr. Torres' cross-border experience should resonate on a personal level with young, first-generation U.S. Hispanics, said Juan Alfonso, VP of marketing and program development at ESPN Deportes.

Until now, work for the U.S. Hispanic market has consisted of adaptations from global work done for Latin markets for the brand Rexona, Degree's name in most of the world. The Andres Guardado commercial was a remake by Deutsch, New York, of an international spot starring Brazilian soccer star Ronaldinho done by Degree's international network, Lowe & Partners Co. In the spot, everyone tries to hide the player's deodorant, sweeping it off store shelves.

The brand's tagline, "Siempre Enfrenta el Reto," is a slightly longer version of "Frente al Reto," the show's name (which was originally going to be "SueƱos," meaning "Dreams"), and captures the spirit of the brand and the show.

The show's microsite explains that Degree Men is the official deodorant of the Mexican soccer team, and it is designed to protect you during the moments that make you sweat on and off the soccer field. The site includes videos from the show, information about the players and links to Degree's YouTube channel,

As the show's sole sponsor and advertiser, Unilever has the full commercial break to play with -- three 90-second blocks in each 30-minute program. Besides the Andres Guardado commercial and another spot featuring Mexico's national soccer team, there will be 15-second calls to action to drive people to the microsite, some promotion for Degree Women and airtime for local ESPN promos, said Miguel Garcia Castillo, a creative and strategy executive at Walton Isaacson. Content will include Q&As with the players, sponsored by Degree and using the Degree logo, and trivia questions and polls.

For all the trials and tribulations the eight players face in the show, no one knows if they'll all be chosen to play in the World Cup.

"We feel really good about six of them," Mr. Alfonso said.

This may be the year of World Cup-related reality shows. While Degree was filming the Mexican players, their tearful mothers and their high school soccer coaches, Anheuser-Busch's agency DDB put out a casting call for an apparent Bud-themed reality show.

"Budweiser is looking for passionate fans of each of the 32 FIFA World Cup qualifying countries to participate in the ultimate football getaway!" read the notice that was posted online. "If you are selected to represent your country, you will be flown to Cape Town, South Africa, for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Luxurious accommodations, thrilling excursions and the opportunity to have the kind of access few fans ever have."

The No. 1 global brewer is said to be working with the producers of a major-network reality show on the project.

It's unclear whether the participants will be as passionate about Budweiser as they are about soccer. Brazil, for instance, has won more World Cup championships than any other country (five), but Budweiser isn't sold there. That may change before the World Cup; AmBev just started a pitch for the Budweiser account in Brazil and is believed to have invited six agencies to pitch.

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Contributing: Jeremy Mullman

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