Men’s grooming company Manscaped made waves in June when it entered a partnership with the San Francisco 49ers as the team’s “official below the waist grooming partner.”
It wasn’t the first sports partnership for Manscaped, which has deals with UFC, Professional Bull Riders, and USA Cornhole, as well as Los Angeles Lakers players JaVale McGee, Alex Caruso, Danny Green, and UFC fighters Dominick Reyes and Francis Ngannou.
However, it marked the company’s first push into a major professional U.S. league; a move that has taken some time for Manscaped to grow into, according to Ryan Fiore, Manscaped vice president of marketing.
“Jumping to the Big 4 sports partnership world has been very interesting,” Fiore said. “Some organizations and teams get our brand, but others aren’t ready to embrace it.”
In the 49ers, Manscaped found an organization ready to push the limits of what might otherwise be a sensitive topic for some fans. 49ers Vice President of Corporate Partnerships Kevin Hilton said the team has a Silicon Valley-like DNA to “gravitate toward brands and categories that are emerging.”
Hilton said the team doesn’t mind looking at potentially sensitive topics, noting that industries like spirits and sports betting were at one point taboo. More importantly, he said the brands must align in mentality. Manscaped approached the Niners about the category designation.
“We thought about it for a minute and didn’t want to alienate anyone,” Hilton said. “But that’s their brand and products, and we want to make sure if we’re going into a partnership, we want to get the most out of it.”
He acknowledged the partnerships with UFC and PBR, but Manscaped’s first NFL deal has worked out well.
“It was a strong release with millions of impressions right out of the gate,” Hilton said. “We strive to want to find ways to break new categories or provide newsworthy-type partnerships, and this strikes on both; it gets attention and provides an instant return on investment with the sheer attention it got.”
The attention comes from Manscaped’s forward brand marketing, often with advertisements and verbiage that will make a viewer double take. Launched in 2017, the brand grew its revenue 800% in 2018. Inc. said its 2017 revenue was $1.5 million, and it counts Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban among its investors.
After launching with a message that was a little too serious according to Fiore, the company has chosen to lean into humor. That allows Manscaped to broach a “taboo topic” and reach a target audience – which it’s now looking to further strengthen with its sports partnerships, he said.
“We make users laugh, and this breaks down the initial barrier of talking about the nether regions,” Fiore said. “Men don’t generally talk about groin trimming, skincare, or hygiene. They talk about funny things. Our humorous approach has resonated so closely with, and sparked engagement among Gen Z and Millennial consumers.”
Manscaped isn’t the only male grooming company using humor to slowly infiltrate sports. Ballsy Brand has entered partnerships with several UFC and Bellator fighters, along with some Minor League Baseball players, said Adam Hendle, the company’s chief executive officer. Hendle said the line between personal care and sexualization is thin.
“MMA is the edgiest sport, so it’s easier to go there with an edgier product,” Hendle said. “In general, below-the-belt is a taboo area, but it’s becoming more socially acceptable to talk about taking care of it.”
Taking an innovative approach and thinking beyond standard categories is something Fiore hopes other teams are willing to do, even if it’s not with a “below the waist grooming partner” like Manscaped.
“We hope other teams are inspired to explore new categories as it ultimately enhances the fan experience,” Fiore said. “We look forward to giving all our time and efforts to our current partnerships at this time. We carefully seek out only the best partners to develop meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships that strategically elevate both parties.”