Out Of The Closet: Why Gildan Went Big on TV
March 14, 2013 | Jeff Beer | Comments
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Gildan had been a T-shirt company without brand recognition. The Super Bowl changed that
A young man awakes on the floor. He glances over at the bed and spots a young lady asleep. As he quietly gathers up his clothes to make a swift getaway, he realizes the dozing ladyfriend is wearing his favourite T-shirt. And so begins a delicate operation of retrieving it without waking her up. Before we can find out if he’s successful, the tagline appears: “It’s about time you had a favorite T-shirt.”
Chances are, this Super Bowl spot was the first time you saw the name Gildan on TV. Hell, it’s likely the first time you saw it anywhere other than the back tag of some random concert T-shirt in the back of your closet. But the Montreal-based company is now in the midst of a major marketing push to help consumers make a connection between that shirt in the back of your closet and the Gildan name. Last year, Gildan sold more than 650 million T-shirts and 600 million pairs of socks, largely through wholesale and screen-printers. “The average American consumer has about 10 of our products in their closet,” says CEO Glenn Chamandy.
Problem is, most of them have no idea any of those products are a Gildan. The Super Bowl spots – two aired during the game, the other shows a terrified young man on a rollercoaster saving his favourite underwear – are a major first move in a 2013 marketing campaign Gildan hopes will better acquaint the brand with consumers already unwittingly wearing its name on their back.
“We’ve been in the retail market for about three years,” says Gildan vice-president of marketing and merchandising Robert Packard. “But what makes this significant is [for the first time] we’re launching a national media campaign to really generate awareness.”
The groundwork leading up to this year’s more prominent marketing splash was laid over the last few years. The company started by investing in second-tier sports sponsorships, becoming the official national sponsor of Triple-A Minor League Baseball, as well as the title sponsor of American college football’s New Mexico Bowl.
The saucy Super Bowl spots, created by New York-based agency DeVito/Verdi, raised some eyebrows and a few scathing reviews due to its decidedly frat-boy approach. The T-shirt spot ranked 41st out of 55 in USA Today’s Ad Meter and ABC News listed it among its picks for worst Super Bowl ads, calling it “off strategy.” The good news for Gildan is you can be sure they were noticed. Far from offensive, the ads are actually more Axe-lite than anything else, and aimed at the same demographic that douses itself in the oft-controversial body spray.
Packard says Gildan’s 2013 campaign will generally target “the millennial mindset consumer,” those 22- to 34-year-olds familiar with Gildan T-shirts by way of that last Eminem concert or co-ed ultimate Frisbee team uniform. The reported $25-million campaign will reach out across national cable TV, print and social media in both Canada and the U.S. over the rest of this year.
“We wanted to put together a campaign that would really strike a chord with our target and have them start thinking about and asking questions about the Gildan brand,” says Ellis Verdi, president of DeVito/Verdi. “It’s through this engagement that we can give the consumer the information about the brand at all touch points.”
It’s off to a good start, but does Gildan really stand a branding chance of usurping the likes of Michael Jordan and a gang of dudes dressed up as giant fruit? If its past is any indication, don’t underestimate Gildan.
Founded in 1984 by the Chamandy family as a manufacturer of children’s wear, today it’s the largest supplier to the North American screen print industry with nearly 50% of the wholesale T-shirt market. After slumping in the recession, the company’s market value has grown in the past four years from $2.2 billion to $4.7 billion.
“Back when we started the banks weren’t interested in funding young, start-up companies,” says Chamandy, who has grown the company to more than 30,000 employees. “We were so levered, I made my mom throw in her life savings, I mortgaged my house—all because I believed in the story.”
Now he’s betting they can sell that story to everyone else.
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