viewers for GMA segment
viewers on HBO platforms
P&G – arguably one of the most iconic brands in the world - is best known for its captivating and representative storytelling. Their campaigns act both as mirrors – allowing people to see their own unique stories and experiences – and windows - creating shared understanding with a view into someone else’s stories and experiences.
So, when P&G challenged the team to develop a new model of brand storytelling that would appeal to Gen Z and Millennials, we knew our content solution had to be “distinctively P&G” - inspiring and authentic, inclusive and representative, a premium experience and finally, the ability to create a positive behavior change among viewers. The series would further bolster Gillette’s brand mission: to empower men to be the very best they can be. The popular personal care product line is a household name among young males aged 18-34. With Gillette’s brand values as our north star, our goal was to create an original series that would be diverse, inclusive, equitable throughout the production process, and distributed through a premium, ad-free network.
To tackle this challenge, dentsu assembled an integrated team of creative and media experts from its in-house production company – The Story Lab – to concept, create, produce and distribute a premium original content series.
Dentsu’s integrated team of strategists, creatives and media experts studied the Gillette brand and developed a strong pulse on young male consumers’ behaviors, needs and perceptions. The team saw an opportunity to approach this impressionable demographic as change agents – a future generation of men who could effectively dismantle stereotypical gender roles, reject toxic masculinity and overcome adversity to achieve greatness.
In order to turn this insight into an original activation, dentsu collaborated with its open ecosystem of media partners to find a true, inspiring story about young men overcoming adversity through the power of community. The SMAC Entertainment Team – notably, Michael Strahan, two-time Emmy winner, Super Bowl Champion and co-host of ABC’s “Good Morning America” - discovered the story of Biff and his St. Francis football team that had been blackballed from their Baltimore private Catholic school league for being "too good." Working with Gillette’s brand team, The Story Lab developed, produced and distributed a series that would creatively embody Gillette's core values by turning them into overarching themes: mentorship, overcoming adversity and the power of community.
The original series came in the form of a four-episode documentary titled The Cost of Winning, produced by The Story Lab, co-owned by P&G and distributed in the U.S. by HBO and HBO Max. Each 30-minute episode features the St. Frances Academy Panthers high school football program in Baltimore, Maryland.
Here’s what made this activation unique and “distinctively P&G” on-screen and off-screen:
- Original, inspiring and authentic storytelling. Gillette and dentsu uncovered an authentic consumer insight that was then weaved into every aspect of the story development, production and distribution process. The series isn’t focused on selling products or brands, but is instead focused on surfacing true stories, people and potential.
- Innovative engagement model. Leveraging an ad-free model, The Cost of Winning represents a new consumer engagement model — one that avoids the intrusiveness of traditional advertising by co-creating and supporting content people care about. Gillette and dentsu teams became the first to work with HBO and HBO Max through a hybrid creative-media model. Gillette also retains the ownership of the original content, as well as the rights for international distribution, which may generate future opportunities for both brand exposure and revenue growth.
- Power of bringing creative and media together. The Story Lab was able to concept, develop, produce and distribute the series in a short period of time while this process would normally take XX weeks at non-integrated agencies. Given dentsu’s integrated model, creative and media came together to produce a seamless multi-project delivery of The Cost of Winning. In addition to the four-part series, additional brand extensions, such as a companion podcast with Victor Cruz and the ‘Best a Man Can Be Scholarship’ were activated soon after to unleash the full potential of creative and media coming together.
- Led with diversity, equity & inclusion (DE&I). Leveraging a diverse media supply chain, The Cost of Winning embodies DE&I from start to finish. The team assembled a diverse production crew who could help shape the story and ensure accurate portrayals of young Black men and BIPOC communities. Further, SMAC, Gillette and dentsu didn’t just tell a story about St. Francis, but also found tangible ways to support the school by providing scholarships and donating 15% of the production budget to the school for greater economic empowerment.
Nominated for a Sports Emmy, The Cost of Winning achieved more than what it set out to do originally. The series premiered on HBO, followed by streaming on HBO Max, and quickly became the top performing sports title since the launch of HBO Max. Leaning primarily on organic efforts and dentsu’s ecosystem of media partners, the series optimized media spend and surpassed KPIs set by the Gillette team. The premiere of The Cost of Winning reached 800,000 viewers on HBO across platforms, a huge success for a show of this scale with each episode after that averaging 700k per episode.
While Gillette planned for the campaign to be a cost-neutral investment, it quickly became a profit-generating campaign and drove mutual benefits for all parties involved, largely due to the popularity of the trailer preview presented live on GMA by Executive Producer Michael Strahan among other paid media and social opportunities.
From a philanthropic standpoint, St Francis Academy received a $150,000 donation and the collaboration created the first Gillette “The Best a Man Can Be” Scholarships that provided $50,000 in college tuition for two well-deserving athletes. These scholarships were presented live on GMA with more than 3.4 million viewers tuning in.
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