Legacy Fishing Brand Zebco Tries to Reel in Gen Z with an Indie-Band Twist

Bad Bad Hats remake the classic "Andy Griffith Show" theme song for an outdoorsy new campaign

Zebco is trying to align fishing with youth-favored pursuits like hiking, kayaking, and mountain biking.
Zebco Fishing

Fishing can be either a hobby or a sport, depending on how skilled you are. But mostly, it’s a Grandpa activity.

That’s the popular opinion at least, ingrained by a million or so Norman Rockwell prints in elderly relatives’ houses, and all the copies of Field & Stream gathering dust at the dentist’s office.

Zebco, a fishing tackle and equipment manufacturer that’s been around since the late 1940s, wants to shake up that image with a new digital and social campaign from Minneapolis-based Modern Climate that puts fishing in league with hiking, kayaking, mountain biking and other millennial and Gen Z-favored outdoorsy pursuits.

In a nod to nostalgia that could seem counter-intuitive, the ad uses the classic theme song from “The Andy Griffith Show” with its original lyrics—and that famous, infectious whistling. But there’s a very of-the-moment twist: It’s covered by Minneapolis indie rockers Bad Bad Hats.

The tune, called “The Fishin’ Hole,” “magically aligned with our communications strategy,” says Doug deGrood, the agency’s creative chairman, who calls it “one of the catchiest songs in the history of television. It has tremendous equity with people of all ages, and the melody is super memorable.”

Using a female vocalist added “a new wrinkle,” he says, referring to singer Kerry Alexander of the currently-touring trio. Griffith himself performed the song for the 1960s sitcom, though just the whistling refrain ran over the show’s credits as Andy and Opie (Ron Howard) walked toward the local waterway with fishing poles slung over their shoulders.

Legacy brand Zebco is battling against a steep decline in recreational fishing and category marketing that’s often “placid and static,” deGrood says. According to Pew research, just 12% of millennials participate, as opposed to 19% of Gen Xers and 30% of Baby Boomers.

“We knew right away we had to recast fishing as the accessible, social pastime that it is and also evolve the way in which the hobby is portrayed in the media,” says Dave Johns, Zebco’s vp, marketing. “If you look back at fishing ads over the decades many will show guys shot from behind—zero visible emotion, no interaction, just quietly casting a line. That’s not fun. So we re-imagined what fishing looks like today for this new generation.”

There’s a wide swath of friends and family, athletes, campers, photo bombers and sun lovers across generations and ethnicities in the ad, with the tagline, “Catch On.” The 60-second hero spot, plus shorter cut downs, make the whole experience look like a delightful way to get back to nature and try to hook a trout, though closing the deal isn’t exactly the point, the ad makes clear.

And there’s the acoustic version of the ear worm ditty, which, aside from the Instagram-worthy visuals, gives the campaign its breezy, inviting hook.

An accompanying contest (#WhistleToWin) will hand out prizes to consumers who submit videos of themselves whistling the iconic tune. A special invite went out to Howard.

Recommended videos