Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
When it came time for Nutrabolt to extend its energy drink line with a cognitive performance-focused product called C4 Smart Energy, the company sought to fully align its value proposition, brand ambassador and creative approach. The resulting platform revolves around Kevin Hart, the comedian, actor, entrepreneur and producer whose ability to multitask is central to the "Get That Hart Smart Energy" campaign.
"Get That Hart Smart Energy" launched last month with a 60-second hero spot starring Hart that whip-pans and quick-cuts through various scenarios — a wardrobe fitting, a recording session, the filming of an action sequence, a photo shoot, the preparation of a meal — before ending with the star performing a stand-up comedy set.
"We have the best multitasker, the hardest working man in the industry in the world. So who better to really help drive the vehicle of Smart Energy?" said Matt Salvatore, head of social media for Nutrabolt's portfolio of brands that includes C4 Energy, Cellucor and Xtend. "We tapped into Kevin's energy — everything you can cram into 24 hours and beyond, because he just is the embodiment of that smart hustle mentality."
The campaign grew organically out of Hart's relationship with the brand. The global star liked the brand for a handful of years, and his training partner Ron "Boss" Everline has been a key ambassador for C4. Hart took an equity stake in Nutrabolt in 2021, and the development of C4 Smart Energy — an outgrowth of the pre-workout C4 Energy drink — was the right fit for a brand ambassadorship.
When Hart was finally available to film a spot, his packed schedule allowed him just two hours to work on set — a fraction of the time usually required for a commercial shoot. But instead of seeing the time limit as a constraint, the brand and its agency Times10 embraced the fast pace to better portray the C4 Smart Energy value proposition.
"What's wild about this commercial is it's very real. We had a very short period of time to shoot it, so I needed that movement of Kevin, and I needed Kevin to nail stuff — the product had to work," said Ben Ricciardi, CEO and founder of Times10. "It was early, and the second he jumped in, off camera, he grabbed a C4 and really dove right in."
The spot's goal was to show Hart in his various elements and with his trademark sense of humor, without looking like a standard commercial. To make better use of the time with the star, Times10 used two crews: While one was lighting and setting up a vignette, the other crew was shooting.
"While I was directing, I had to have Kevin really jump from mindset to mindset. Whether it was when he was doing his stand-up piece or whichever part of the vignette that we were shooting, I really had to have him multitask and change what he was thinking about and really get into each character — where he was and what he would be doing in his daily life," Ricciardi explained.
Not only did the shoot involve two crews, but it required thinking about the various channels and platforms in which the campaign would run. Along with a traditional video, Times10 had to capture footage for TikTok and Instagram Reels, where the frame is 9x16 and not 16x9. With that in mind, the company rigged two cameras that could shoot simultaneously, and remained mindful of the frame, which would eventually include key phrases like "on the move" and "always ready" in 3D block print behind the star.
"I definitely push to drive social engagement, to really understand how the social side of even a spot like this will work, and that's been a lot of fun to really understand," Ricciardi said.
The hero spot is only the first piece in the multifaceted campaign, which includes a media partnership with Hart's LOL! Network that will deploy across over-the-top outlets, Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and product integration in Hart's sports talk show, "Cold As Balls." The brand also plans to launch a TikTok challenge to encourage consumers to share their side hustles for a chance to be selected by Hart to win prizes that total $50,000.
To build on the spot's theme of how C4 Energy allows for better multitasking, the brand will eventually roll out a digital content series called KevinVision that illustrates Hart in different mediums. While details about KevinVision are not yet available, the brand has explored cell-shading, hand-drawn animation, anime and Web3 activations including non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and the metaverse.
"If we have the world's best multihyphenate, we couldn't just cover that in one medium… there just isn't one creative style that speaks to how you can capture Kevin's energy," Salvatore said. "It's capturing the different shades of Kevin, and the different energies that Kevin embodies, and where that energy takes him in different various creative narrative forms."
With "Get That Hart Smart Energy" and eventually KevinVision, Nutrabolt hopes to use its creative approach to stand out in a pre-workout supplement market that was valued at more than $12 billion in 2019 and could grow to $22 billion by 2027, per Grand View Research. Despite the parent company being in the space for 20 years thanks to its Cellucor brand, C4 has been more of a challenger brand focused on better-for-you energy.
"If you've ever seen how much sugar is actually in a Red Bull or in a Monster, it's kind of terrifying — it's Halloween in a can," Salvatore said. "I think we really have prided ourselves on avoiding that and starting to bring around the positive side of what energy can help you unlock."