Buddy Lee Ads to Bow

Lee Dungaree’s “spokesdoll” Buddy Lee returns to the airwaves in “Be Like Buddy Lee” TV ads that have a lighthearted, music-video feel and break July 31. Fallon, Minneapolis, handles.

Lee, a division of VF Corp. headquartered in Merriam, Kan., is counting on the campaign to continue sales momentum despite this year’s difficult retail environment. First-quarter retail sell-throughs of men’s jeans increased 17 percent; men’s shorts spiked 39 percent in April.

A new twist on the campaign shifts last year’s focus on Buddy Lee to three young hipsters seeking to emulate his heroic do-good ethic and his sartorial style. Last fall, Buddy Lee was the star in challenges against villains in activities such as go-cart racing and record spinning.

The Buddy Lee-like actions of the campaign’s would-be heroes are set to the strains of American folk songs for a music-video effect. The only spoken words, “Lee dungarees: can’t bust ’em,” are heard in a voiceover.

Singer/songwriter T-Bone Burnett produced the funky country-rock tunes, which are sung by Junior Brown of the Dave Matthews Band. Rapper Chuck D and Curtis Armstrong also make cameo appearances.

In one spot, a female clad in Lee hipster flair jeans is about to exit an apartment building when Buddy Lee stops her. In a humorous twist, a piano drops on Buddy Lee, who emerges unscathed. The other spots are set on a city street and in a suburban neighborhood and showcase two young men, one wearing carpenter pants and the other in loose-fitting, five-pocket dungarees.

The 30-second spots will run on ESPN, MTV and Comedy Central. Lee’s sponsorship of ESPN’s on-air “Two Minute Drill” also gets it into print in ESPN magazine.

Online components will be featured on espn.com, onion.com and leedungarees.com.

Ad spending was not disclosed. Lee spent about $10 million last year per Competitive Media Re porting.