How Mizzen+Main and Phil Mickelson Pulled Off One of the Best Marketing Plays of the Year

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL – MAY 11: Phil Mickelson of the United States and Rickie Fowler of the United States walk on the tenth hole during the second round of THE PLAYERS Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on May 11, 2018 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Normally as a brand you don’t want people to classify your product as “preposterous”, “horrible”, or “ugly”, but that’s exactly what you would have found if you happened to search “Phil Mickelson’s Dress Shirt” this past weekend on Twitter.

What you would have also seen was the loyal wearers of Mizzen+Main, which includes over 600 athletes, standing up for the brand that Mickelson made viral on social media after wearing one of their long sleeve shirts at a practice round during the Masters. He subsequently followed that up by signing an endorsement deal with the company, which he now has an ownership stake in.

“After Phil was introduced to the product, he thought it would be fun to actually play golf in,” said Kevin Lavelle, Founder and CEO of the six-year-old apparel company. “After the feedback of wearing a Mizzen+Main dress shirt in a practice round at Augusta, a broader partnership was announced in the run up to The Players Championship.”

One has to think that rolling out Mickelson for an afternoon round, in Florida, in May, would have been risky for the brand. While Phil didn’t play the best round of his life, and the shirt was blamed on social media for the poor performance, Lavelle was ecstatic about how the shirt held up.

“The whole point of Phil wearing the dress shirt is to demonstrate its capabilities. 18 holes in the Florida sun in May at the highest level of competition? The shirt held up beautifully!”

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When looking for an endorser, Mickelson, outside of already being an investor in the company, checked all of the boxes for Lavelle and his team.

“The great part is our customers range from early twenties into their sixties. The reality of Phil’s fan base is that has the same breadth. Everyone loves Phil.”

While Mickelson and his shirt were the talk of the golf world this weekend (yes, his shirt even has a Twitter account), when the announcement came on May 9th that the two parties had agreed to an endorsement deal, the eyeballs went from just attention to attention that came with sales.

“We had our highest days of the year after the announcement and a 500% increase in daily web traffic,” said Lavelle. “Our social engagement and traffic was off the charts! It’s been a thrilling few days.”

Lavelle credits the company for being nimble enough to take advantage of the moment, along with the fact that as a brand they don’t take themselves too seriously, to the early success of the partnership.

As for what happens next given the off-course potential and the relatability Mickelson has with their customers, Lavelle was guarded when it came to giving away all of their secrets saying, “We have a lot planned.”

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL – MAY 11: Tiger Woods of the United States and Phil Mickelson of the United States stand on the 16th green during the second round of THE PLAYERS Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on May 11, 2018 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Thanks to some solid planning, Mickelson being bought in, and the startup being nimble enough to execute when the time was right, the long tail effect of the past few weeks will last far longer than people’s memory of what Mickelson actually shot on the course.

“It’s been a whirlwind since he played at Augusta,” added Lavelle. “While this feels like a massive week for us, the reality is, we’re literally just starting one of the most innovative and exciting partnerships in sports. We can’t wait to unveil what’s next.”