How a Canadian got into Axe’s Apollo space program

December 11, 2013  |  Jennifer Hough  |  Comments

Boldly going where only nine Canadians have gone before, a 20-year-old Montreal man is set to embark on his very own space odyssey as part of a global contest and branding campaign.

Theo Abbaci is one of 22 winners of a global competition held by Unilever to launch Apollo, its new Axe scent.

The cosmic prize is a ticket to space in early 2015, a journey that will launch passengers more than 100 kilometres into the atmosphere, achieving “astronaut status” and joining the ranks of just 537 others who’ve travelled into space.

The stellar competition is the brand’s biggest product launch in its 30-year history.

Axe Canada brand building manager Kyle Millar said the idea was hatched simply because the brand endeavours to “give guys what they want.”

“In our research and focus groups, we ask guys ‘What’s the coolest thing you could do?’ Going to space was always one of the top things… We are always trying to outdo ourselves each year and come up with something that will push the envelope on a global scale.”

The contest was conducted across 60 countries and in 45 languages. While a global team coordinated the big-picture details, the Canadian Axe team ran this market’s search for two finalists who would battle it out for the top prize at grand finals on Dec. 6 at the “Axe Global Space Camp” (or Kennedy Space Centre as it is usually known).

In Canada, thousands of contestants were asked to create an astronaut profile on a dedicated website, and explain why they deserved to go to space. Online votes would pick two finalists to compete for the grand prize.

“Our fans really ran with this contest, we were thrilled with the level of interest and excitement,” Millar said.

Tactics for getting votes varied. One contestant pledged to wear a space suit for the duration of the contest. Another person created videos, funny memes and games to get attention and secure more votes.

Abbaci earned votes by petitioning his friends and posting a YouTube video to rally support.

The final stage of the competition saw Abbaci and the other finalists from each country travel to Florida for an intense four-day camp. The 107 finalist “cadets” took part in competitive space-simulation challenges including fighter jet training, zero-G flights and G-force simulators. They got to climb into a replica Apollo command module and walk along the iconic orange gantry that carries astronauts to their space crafts.

The competition ended when the winners were selected with the help of Buzz Aldrin, pilot of Apollo 11, the spacecraft that landed on the moon in 1969.

“I’m so excited for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Abbaci said, in a press release. “My week at space camp was one of the best weeks of my life and I can only imagine what the real experience in space will be like.”

Axe will travel to the stars aboard a spacecraft named the Lynx (Axe known as Lynx in other parts of the world). The craft is a “space plane” designed and built by U.S. firm Xcor Aerospace and operated by Space Expedition Corporation (SXC), which plans to offer daily commercial flights into space starting in 2014. Seats for regular space travellers will reportedly cost about $100,000.

Millar would not reveal how much the global campaign cost.

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