On the turf, Steve Weatherford is the free-agent NFL punter with a ripped physique who excelled for the New York Giants' 2011 championship team. In the often equally bruising world of social media, he’s @Weatherford5, well known for his upbeat (and occasionally contentious) tweets, forthright Instagram posts and engaging Snapchat videos, where you are as likely to see him playing with his four kids or shampooing his dog as doing mind-bending bench presses. Oh, and “I answer every single question on snapchat daily,” as he posted the other day.
Tommy John — no relation to the baseball pitcher or the eponymous elbow surgery — is a premium men’s underwear brand started in 2008 by Tom Patterson. In the grand tradition of superlative marketers, the former medical device salesman identified a problem that most of us didn’t realize we were suffering from until he mentioned it and now find constantly annoying.
You’ll see what I mean in this humorous :60 spot. “When you’re uncomfortable,” states the scroll at the end, “we’re all uncomfortable. No pinching. No bunching. No riding up.”
Or you can get the gist of it from Josh Dean, head of brand at Tommy John, who’ll tell you that it’s about time that men paid as much attention to their underwear as they do to everything else in their wardrobe.
“When they think about their underwear, most men, on average, have to take a wedgie out at some point in the day. And we don’t think they should do that,” Dean says. “They shouldn’t have to think about that.”
Indeed. The trick, though, is how do you “trade guys up to the experience” for the first time when you can buy a four-pack of those wedgie-inducing briefs for less than a single pair of Tommy John.
Well, it turns out Weatherford has been wearing Tommy John — he’s partial to #NoAdjustmentNeeded Second Skin Boxer Briefs — for a few years now. And he and Patterson have become friends. So a couple of Saturdays ago, the latter turned up at the former’s house and they had a little Snapchat.
In the course of that tête-à-tête — lost to posterity, of course — Patterson had Weatherford “clean out his old drawers.” Then Weatherford challenged fans to do the same by posting videos and photos of themselves destroying an old pair of their BVDs — or whatever — to #TrashOneCashOne on Instagram or Twitter. Once they did, they got a link to a form to fill out for a free pair of Tommy John.
Why Weatherford, besides the fact he had a huge social following?
“We didn’t want to feature a European tennis player stripping down into his underwear,” says Dean. “We wanted to work with somebody who we identify as a man of substance.”
Weatherford, in fact, was simultaneously dubbed the brand’s first “Man of Substance.” Not only is he a “badass punter” and athlete but he’s also “a caring family man” who “finds time to also mentor disadvantaged kids.”
Also, says Dean, “we wanted to do something that felt organic and original.”
How did it all turn out?
“We were thrilled by how eager his fans were to participate,” says Dean, pointing out that a promotion like this is risky because you’re asking consumers to actually do something in return for the freebie. “But when you have someone like Steve, who’s a cultivated personality with huge relations on social, we also knew we weren’t going to be disappointed.”
Half A Million Social Impressions
A couple of days after the launch, Tommy John had seen a 220% increase in its Instagram traffic and a 5% increase in followers. And, by Dean’s estimate, it had gotten about half a million impressions on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. By the end of the week-long challenge, there were 80 entries of elaborate videos and photographs involving everything from bows and arrows to grills to 20-story buildings in the destruction of Brand Xs.
In an earlier social promotion in line with the brand’s strategy “to engage with customers the way a good friend would,” CEO Patterson invited followers to compete with him in a March Madness Bracket Challenge. About 2,000 fans entered.
“He didn’t do too well,” Dean says. He wound up giving away more than a thousands pairs of underwear. But it’s a classic case of winning by losing.
“It’s all an opportunity to get new guys into the brand,” says Dean. “To try Tommy John.”
Or even to hear of it.
This column was originally published in the Social Media Insider on April 28, 2016.