- Head & Shoulders, a Procter & Gamble brand, announced that U.S. freeskier Gus Kenworthy will serve as brand ambassador ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics, according to a news release. Kenworthy will be featured as part of the company's "Shoulders of Greatness" campaign.
- Kenworthy, often cited as the first openly gay action sports athlete, will appear in 15-second spots through February, along with in-store and digital events. He will also be the subject of a content series discussing how he has handled the pressures of being an Olympic athlete, his personal obstacles and how his longtime agent, Michael Spencer, inspired him, including when coming out.
- Head & Shoulders will additionally promote Shoulders of Greatness and Kenworthy's story on its Twitter and Facebook channels through the hashtag #ShouldersofGreatness.
Head & Shoulders's approach to telling Kenworthy's story fits within parent company P&G's commitment to trying to create higher-quality and more purpose-driven marketing for its brands. Ambassadorships around the Olympics are fairly common, but Head & Shoulders is building a larger narrative beyond traditional spots with a content series that tackles some sensitive — but potentially resonant — subject matter.
The 15-second spot featuring Kenworthy made available in the release doesn't specifically mention that the athlete is gay, but in it, he makes several references to "pride" and is shown waving a rainbow flag, a symbol of the LGBT community. Kenworthy was also one of the athletes that inspired P&G's recent "Love Over Bias" short film highlighting the mothers of Olympians who supported their children in the face of prejudice stemming from race, religion and sexual orientation. Ahead of the campaign, P&G surveyed this year's Olympic athletes and found that 55% felt prejudice or judgment while growing up, and that most felt their moms were their strongest advocates.
Inspiring and cause-driven messaging can help marketers better reach key consumer segments like millennials and Gen Zers, who are generally viewed as more receptive and open-minded to such approaches than older consumers. A study by business intelligence platform PSFK found that Gen Zers, in particular, feel attached to important causes, and 69% of them think brands should help them achieve their goals. Thirty percent reported they've felt excluded by brands because of their identity in the past.