Kevin Durant Takes Kate Upton to Work in Skullcandy Ad

Part of brand's repositioning campaign

One of the most valuable assets for companies marketing to younger consumers is their spokespeople. In particular, hip brands like the surf-skate-snow clothing company Quiksilver and headphone maker Skullcandy often look to young athletes like surfers Dane Reynolds and Kolohe Andino or NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant to help relate to the younger demographic. In some cases, the athletes even serve as brand consultants.

Sometime this month, Skullcandy will unveil a new look and feel aimed at positioning the company as a "performance lifestyle audio brand," according to vp of global marketing and creative Nate Morley. The new positioning is a big deal for Skullcandy, so the company organized a focus group composed of its sponsored athletes, including snowboarder Devun Walsh, skateboarder Theotis Beasley and Andino (who lives three blocks away from Skullcandy’s San Clemente, Calif., offices, Morley said) to get their thoughts on the new product line.

“Literally the first people we called up were some of our key athletes. We sat down with them and took them through everything: showed them the different options, got their feedback. And that was critical feedback as we developed this evolved look and feel,” said Morley, who was in Laguna Nigel, CA, this week powwowing with marketers like Quiksilver CEO Bob McKnight over how to evolve the look and feel of youth-focused marketing at the PTTOW! Summit.

Naturally, some of the young athletes are set to appear within Skullcandy’s ads. Yesterday Skullcandy launched the first in a series of “Take a Supermodel to Work” videos, which stem from a partnership with IMG Models and Funny or Die’s production arm Gifted Youth. The video stars Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover model Kate Upton visiting and training with Durant and teammate James Harden from the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.

Morley isn’t new to content marketing. Before joining Skullcandy, he served as DC Shoes’ marketing vp and saw the brand’s Gymkhana video series starring rally car driver Ken Block reach more than 120 million views online.

“You can’t try to trick anyone,” said Morley of trying to create viral campaigns. “You can’t develop a piece of content and pretend that it’s viral. … Kids are way too smart. They’ll see through it, and it’ll backfire in two seconds.” Which is why Skullcandy’s marketing team involves its athletes from a campaign’s early strategy stages “to ensure it’s going to be 100 percent legitimate and authentic,” he added.