New York — When the average person thinks about James Harden the first thing that comes to mind might not be his NBA stardom as a shooting guard for the Houston Rockets, or his average 27.8 points per game, or his healthy 0.425 field goal percentage. No, the first thing likely to come to mind is his iconic beard and goofy personality.
Ferrara Candy Co., Inc. is hoping to capitalize on that recognition and integrate it with the goofiness of its own marketing campaign, “Weirdly Awesome,” for Trolli brand gummies. Through an extensive social media campaign, a pair of TV spots and the launch of Trolli Sour Bite Weird Beards that take the shape of Harden’s face, the company is going hard after its key demographic of young millennials 18-24.
“We know he can play basketball, but it’s that combination of the character on the court and the character off the court that got us interested in him,” Jill Manchester, senior vice-president of marketing and brand strategy, tells Candy & Snack TODAY. “I look at James Harden and he embraces the energy and the essence of Trolli.”
The company says it realized the Trolli brand resonated with the young age group and wanted to build a campaign that put social media as the starting point, not just an after thought. That’s why if consumers go to the company’s Instagram page, they’ll see a collage of images making up Harden’s “endless beard,” which is filled with brief video clips of the NBA star eating gummies, flying through space on the body of a tiger and performing a slam dunk through space on a hoop on the moon.
“We know our fan base is social,” Manchester says.“Instagram and Snapchat are the two social outlets that index the highest with our Trolli fanbase so we really wanted to focus on those two channels.”
Harden’s beard is so recognizable that Ferrara has shifted the campaign’s title to “Beardly Awesome” and the company is running TV commercials that put his face hair front and center, as the disembodied beard answers questions during a post-game press event.
But Manchester says the company wanted to go a step further and create native digital ads for the first time that can only be seen through the company’s social channels.
This is also the first time Ferrara has partnered the brand with a celebrity or athlete, and Manchester said it’s something they might not have considered at all had Harden not approached Trolli himself.
She says Harden is a huge fan of Trolli, which made it easier to find weird ways to integrate him into the product. In fact, Harden is such a fan that he has his own ritual to eating Sour Bite Crawlers. He gathers up all of one flavor (the Rockets colors of red and yellow are his favorite), bites off one side and throws the remaining colors in a pile to eat in one big mouth full.
This makes him a very engaged player Manchester says and it’s something the company plans to utilize, as Harden will be involved in the creation of new shapes and flavors to come.