Calvin Klein Snaps Up Djimon Hounsou

Calvin Klein is doing all right by Warnaco.

In its just-released fiscal '06 results, Warnaco attributes much of its 24% net revenue increase, to $1.83 billion, to the recently acquired CK Jeans business (which contributed $314 million in revenue) and the CK Underwear division (whose sales jumped more than 18%). In total, CK merchandise revenues exceeded $1 billion.

Now, Warnaco is fanning the flames by hiring actor Djimon Hounsou as the model for the newest underwear line, Calvin Klein Steel. Hounsou is the first movie star to be the Klein model since Antonio Sabato Jr.'s turn over a decade ago.

Why go with an actor after years of success with buff athletes like soccer star Freddie Ljungberg?

"When Calvin Klein chooses to use spokesmodels known in the Hollywood community, they don't make mistakes," says Lauren Solomon of New York-based LS Image Associates. "Djimon Hounsou is well-respected and smart, as well as sexy, and has no negatives associated with him. He epitomizes the lifestyle that the Calvin Klein brand stands for--clean, elegant, effortless. His own personal style is sleek and minimalist."

Indeed, two-time Academy Award nominee Hounsou may have earned his keep in free publicity less than 48 hours after his contract was announced, as he was walking the red carpet at the Academy Awards. (Imagine the delight of CK marketing executives when interviewer Ryan Seacrest congratulated Hounsou on the being the new Klein model--and Hounsou then got Seacrest to flash the CK tag on his own underwear ...)

CK Underwear cut spending on ad campaigns for solo men's brands and women's brands last year in favor of funneling $1.48 million to the 365 brand and $1.12 million to CK ads featuring both men's and women's brands, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Spend on men's-brand efforts totaled $438,432, down from $1.4 million in 2005.

That marketing strategy will presumably reverse with Hounsou on board to pump Steel.

The campaign, set to launch this fall, will forego television and rely heavily on print, complemented by outdoor in high-impact sites like Times Square and Sunset Boulevard.