Kennedy Scion Will Model to Aid Environmental Charity

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Looking to raise its profile, sportswear brand Gant will feature a member of America’s royalty, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and his family in its spring 2006 campaign. The surprising spokesmodel signed with the marketer in exchange for contributions and publicity for his environmental organization just as the fashion world’s penchant for touting celebrity-backed charity tie-ins has hit an all-time high.

Photo: AP
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is modeling Gant fashions to raise money for his charity environmental organization. Advertising photos were recently shot on Cape Cod.
“Gant is a classic American icon that has lost some ground in brand awareness over the last decade, and this puts them back in the limelight, especially among high-end consumers,” NPD chief industry analyst Marshal Cohen said. “True designers and big-name brands looking to elevate beyond retail brands are increasingly associating themselves with all kinds of philanthropic endeavors to associate some personality for their brands.”

Shilling for a cause
Celebrities who may have once eschewed shilling for a brand are increasingly doing so in the name of a cause. Angelina Jolie has signed to be the new face of St. John luxury apparel and its newly created children’s foundation, while Christina Aguilera and Ashley Judd have also raised awareness, and money, for YouthAids by appearing in ads for footwear marketer Aldo.

Even so, the appearance in an ad of a member of one of the country’s most prominent political families is almost certain to raise eyebrows. “The Kennedys are going to want to make absolutely sure people know they didn’t just sell out,” said Alexander Duckworth, creative director and president of luxury marketing consulting firm Point One Percent. To do so will require “making absolute sure that if there is a piece on ‘Entertainment Tonight’ or in Us Weekly, it’s clearly understood that what this is about is his charity [Waterkeeper Alliance], and then it’s seen as fair game to have done this.”

The premium apparel marketer said it photographed Mr. Kennedy and his family in Cape Cod, Mass., but declined to discuss further details. The agency could not be determined.

Women's apparel, fragrance
Gant plans to announce the tie-in at a global press conference Jan. 19 in Stockholm, the Swedish headquarters of Gant Co. AB, which in 1999 acquired the global rights to the Gant trademark. The company in recent years has stepped up marketing efforts for the brand beyond its core men’s apparel with an extension last year into women’s apparel and, this past spring, into fragrance with a license to Elizabeth Arden to produce Gant Adventure. Sales since 2003 have increased by double-digits, and Gant is aiming to do even better.

Using the Kennedy family “makes their campaign much more interesting than just using a sexy model as they try to move up into the ranks of Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren, who go back and forth ruling the American dream/New England lifestyle category,” Mr. Duckworth said.

Off the radar
Gant has been “off the radar for quite some time,” especially in the U.S., said Raul Martinez, CEO and executive creative director of fashion ad agency AR. Despite its Swedish ownership, Gant has deep roots in New England, as do the Kennedys, making it a logical fit, he said.

Gant’s decision to “go for a personality rather than a true celebrity speaks of their desire not to be too obvious and reflects their understanding that their spokesperson must truly speak to their heritage: When you say ‘Kennedy’ around the world, people think ‘American.'”

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