For 73 years, Wrangler has positioned itself as the maker of authentic Western blue jeans, the sort of denim worn by cowboys, ranch hands and rodeo riders. Jeans that demanded to be worn with a silver belt buckle the size of a dinner plate. So if you were Wrangler and looking for a logical brand ambassador, would you sign up some dude from New England?
Sure—if his name is Rob Gronkowski.
The 6-foot-6-inch, 268-pound Gronkowski—or just Gronk, as he’s better known—will be the celebrity athlete walking Wrangler into the Super Bowl spotlight. On Saturday, the day before the Big Game, Wrangler will be dropping its name (and its jeans) at Gronk Beach, an afternoon party at Miami’s North Beach Bandshell, a few miles to the southeast of the Super Bowl venue, Hard Rock Stadium. Billed as a “Championship of Partying,” Gronk Beach will be a Polynesian luau complete with Tiki bars, fire twirlers and musical guests including Diplo and Rick Ross.
“He may not be playing in the game this year,” the website concedes, “but he is taking Miami by storm with his personal music festival.”
Presented by Monster Energy, Gronk Beach has no shortage of brands that have signed on as sponsors, including Uber Eats and Bud Light. But Wrangler’s jeans will enjoy choice placement on Gronk’s posterior. Wrangler has the not uncomplicated task of putting pants on a man whose getup for beach parties is usually limited to swim trunks.
So long as he’s standing on the red carpet on Saturday, however, the 30-year-old retired tight end will be sporting a pair of custom-made Wrangler denim. He will also be given control of Wrangler’s Instagram account during the six hours of festivities.
“We’re super excited,” Wrangler’s senior marketing director Holly Wheeler told Adweek.
As well they might be. Gronk consistently made the list of the NFL’s most likable players and, even in retirement, his Facebook following stands at roughly 1.6 million. At press time, tickets for Gronk Beach were 95% sold out.
In terms of brand exposure, Wrangler is likely to get just as much play from Gronkowski’s appearance at Super Bowl Media Day, for which “we’ll be dressing [him],” Wheeler added. “We’ve taken an iconic jacket and customized it with art that’s specific to his logo. He’ll be wearing that.”
Indeed, it’s Wrangler’s hope that, since Gronk has his nice new Wrangler ensemble, he might as well wear it to the Big Game itself. “We are confident that he will love the fit and feel of the Wrangler gear, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see him rocking his Wranglers throughout the weekend,” added a brand spokesperson.
It’s a testament to the enduring power of Gronk’s brand that a man whose team is not even in this year’s Super Bowl remains a central figure in the bacchanalia down in Miami. While he’s been retired for almost a year, Gronk did play in five Super Bowls and remains a VIP in the endorsement game. Over the years, he’s inked major deals with brands including Dunkin’, Tide, JetBlue and Monster Energy, the latter of which sold a special Gronk edition at one time.
Gronk has also perfected a few choice plays in building his own brand, having hosted a cruise to the Bahamas aboard Gronk’s Party Ship in 2015 and, two years later, writing a New York Times bestseller titled It’s Good to Be Gronk.
Meanwhile, since being spun off from apparel giant VF Corporation last year, Wrangler has been steadily repositioning itself as a global fashion brand with an appeal that goes beyond the old tumbleweed trappings. Wrangler jeans sell in Nordstrom and Anthropologie, and four months ago, the brand opened a pop-up store at Los Angeles’ legendary Fred Segal on Sunset Boulevard. So it’s not a complete surprise that Wrangler would be partnering with a figure like Gronk, whose national appeal transcends New England just like his personality has transcended football.
Even so, brand consultant Allen Adamson, co-founder of consultancy Metaforce, wonders how durable this deal might ultimately be.
“Authenticity is critical for endorsements to translate to sales,” he said. “While Gronk has buzz with the Wrangler target market, it’s unlikely he will be wearing Wranglers to the next party he attends.”
Whether or not Wranglers will find a permanent spot in Gronk’s closet, one thing’s sure: The man apparently needs a new pair of jeans. Asked a few years ago if his son’s NFL paychecks would change him, father Gordon Gronkowski shook his head, saying, “He still to this day will wear jeans that he had in high school.”