In 2011, K-Swiss took a big turn in marketing.
The Los Angeles-based shoe company had been relegated to second place by the Nikes and Adidas of the world and was losing ground to up-and-coming companies like Under Armour. K-Swiss was best known as a tennis specialist, and in the late 1990s and early 2000s managed to expand the company’s reach through its “I Wear My K-Swiss” campaign.
Despite a relatively recognizable logo, the shoes were often seen as preppy clothing for classy people – a brand closer to Lacoste than Reebok. That all changed about a decade ago. The company’s branding took a left turn in hopes of attracting a new market: Bros.
It all started with a simple concept: Kenny Powers, the main character of HBO’s East and down and arguably Danny McBride’s most memorable creation, was named the brand’s new (fictional) CEO. In his new role, he added Patrick Willis, Jon Jones and Rey Mysterio in various roles within the company. Matt Cassel, fresh off the best season of his NFL career, has become chief marketing officer.
Warning: this video is, like all things Kenny Powers, extremely dangerous for work, unless you work in a very cool office):
These ads, by the way? Directed by Adam McKay long before producing Succession Where winning time.
Cassel absolutely nails his role here and provides the only K-Swiss related memories in my brain from the past two decades. I never bought shoes from the company, but now I kinda regret it, if only because I don’t want Cassel and Powers to call me a nerd at some vague point in my future.
What did I like in particular? Oh, dear reader, I’m so glad you asked.
1 It Only Takes Six Seconds For McBride To Drop An F-Bomb
Somewhere in the 2010s, advertisers realized they could make inroads online without having to worry about the same broadcast standards they would find on TV. The gold standard for this may be Nike’s “What It Means Kobe Bryant” Kobe System Advertising, but K-Swiss had several strong entries into the NSFW oeuvre. Kenny Powers tells us right away what it’s going to be. Be ready.
2 Matt Cassel’s corporate outfit
Generic Football Shirt, Playsheet Wristband, Sports Shorts. The odds that Cassel came to this meeting smelling like a gym bag are at least 50/50.
Matt Cassel is an angry man. His slogans are angry. He doesn’t care about his colleagues. You might know him as Tom Brady’s replacement or the guy who spent a few decent years with the Chiefs, but make no mistake. matt cassel hated you.
4 The self-impressed sniffle after “beer me bro”
Bad quarterback loves his terrible ideas, though.
5 “The Focus On Us.”
This song was released 11 years before this commercial aired. Wonderful choice. “Who did it? We did it. Why don’t we let the dogs out?
6 “Something that speaks to our female population.”
The tagline is “they’ll soak your muscles”, in case you don’t want to zoom in. Wonderfully terrible.
7 “finally, the turn of…resistance”
In my heart, I want to believe Cassel said that on purpose. It’s a Michael Scott/Ricky LaFleur level pun.
8 Danny McBride’s Perfect Muffin Toss
Seconds before that, Cassel knocks the guy on the phone off the black of his hand with a shoe. It’s not that impressive; he throws things away for a living.
Conversely, McBride played a major league pitcher for four seasons of a popular TV show and has the pitching form of a kid who grew up in a country where sports were banned. Here’s what a Kenny Powers looked like while allegedly throbbing gas at 100 mph:
courtesy of HBO
In the meeting room, we witness a draw that is undeniably more impressive than anything he has done from the mound. McBride absolutely nails this poor actor in the face. The reactions around the table speak volumes:
9 “Me and Matt Cassel just you, man.”
Actually no, that says it all.