Lewis Lacks Mustafa’s Swagger

This past spring the Old Spice brand Swagger got in some public relations hot water for being the first to “sponsor” a stat in Madden NFL 2011. The “Swagger statistic” measures celebrations in the end zone, and some videogame purists (and a few influential sports bloggers) thought the move was all but criminal.

Now, Old Spice Swagger has taken on a celeb endorser who may or may not have done some criminal things in his past, but certainly is not squeaky clean: the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Lewis, the meanest of the mean linebackers.

Was Terry Tate busy, or were the Wieden + Kennedy creatives, flush with the universal success of — and love for — Isaiah Mustafa, hell-bent on finding the antithesis of the “Man Your Man Could Smell Like”? Or, at the very least, a pitchman to alienate women and just plain horrify or piss off everyone else?

The saving grace of Lewis’ first spot — for Swagger — is a giant, jet-fueled, robotic raven that appears outside of his bathroom window. The scale of the bird is hilarious, and the larger-than-life connection to his team’s name makes sense. I also like his opening gag, when he steps out of the stall covered in a soapsuds uniform resembling feathers.

Thus covered, he straps on a helmet, saddles up the bird, flies it into outer space and cruelly whips it until it explodes the rings of Saturn. That’s some set of morning ablutions! Or maybe it’s some kind of showery sex metaphor?

Lewis’ second spot — for deodorant — takes place on the football field, and it seems pretty desperate. “Hi, I’m Ray Lewis,” he says in a muffled way from under his helmet, as he runs with a large, upright bear in pursuit. “Women want me, men want to be me, and animals want to learn how to talk to hang out with me.”

The bear says a word or two in an odd accent that might be slightly Russian. In the end, there’s another testosterone-based explosion, which comes off as random male pyrotechnical humor. All the humor here is so random that it’s just annoying. Plus, the whole thing with bears is overdone by now (see Stephen Colbert.) And the idea of watching someone run on the field has already been well covered by the ermine-and-white-tights-clad Burger King

Or perhaps Lewis is there simply to reinforce the greatness of Mustafa — who really can say, “Women love me, men want to be me.”

Because it’s true.

Besides, who needs another random talking bear joke when you’re on a horse?