Meet San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, a quintessential American football titan who is widely regarded as one of the best inside linebackers in professional football. Willis was chosen by the 49ers as the 11th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft after an impressive tenure as a two-time All-American at the University of Mississippi.
A brute combination of explosive energy, strength and speed, Willis is fiercely intelligent (he holds a degree in criminal justice) and highly respected among his teammates. “Patrick leads by example. He’s not a big talker. He just gets in there and does his job every day and makes everyone around him better,” said former Mississippi head coach Ed Orgeron.
Willis’ incredible sense of character, both on and off the field, is the reason Duracell chose him as the spokesperson for their new cause initiative, “Trust Your Power.” The campaign encourages consumers to follow their dreams and trust the power that lives within each of us. After seeing this new ad for the campaign by Saatchi and Saatchi, I was absolutely floored. Duracell illustrates why their decision to partner with Willis was based on something much more than his herculean notoriety and ability to foster brand recognition. Willis was truly an example of the “Trust Your Power” campaign ideals, demonstrating an unwavering sense of self in the face of adversity time and time again.
At age 10 Willis was already the man of the house. Residents of his hometown of Bruceton, Tenn., often said he was 10 going on 25. Up and out of the house by 6 a.m., Willis, or Boss (as his siblings called him), would trek across the county to chop wood in the sticky southern heat for just $110 a week. After that he would return home to an aluminum trailer patched with plywood at the end of Buck Ditch Road where he lived with his baby brothers Detris and Orey, his little sister Ernicka and their alcoholic father who would spend all the of Willis’ hard earned money to fuel his addiction.
Life at home with Willis’ father, Ernest, grew increasingly more violent as his alcoholism worsened. Sports soon became an outlet for Willis. He and his brother would shoot hoops through an 11-foot basket in the dirt in front of their trailer until it got so dark they couldn’t tell whether or not they’d scored. He was a natural athlete who excelled at basketball, baseball and especially football.
In 2001, following an incident in which Willis’ father began violently beating his daughter after he lost a pickup basketball game, Willis decided to take control. The next day Willis confided in a guidance counselor about his father’s drinking problem. Later that week the Department of Child Services threatened to send each of the four children to separate foster homes unless someone volunteered to take them in. It was at the last minute that Chris Finley, the Bruceton Central baseball team coach, volunteered to take in the kids as his own. Years later, when the Finleys dropped off Willis at Ole Miss, he introduced them as his parents. Their undying support had helped him accelerate not only as an athlete, but also as a young man with an outstanding sense of character.
“He’s the guy who has every reason to quit, every reason to hate everybody. Greatness is not about the guy who has all the skills and talent. Greatness is measured by the setbacks you had in life. Have you been able to fight through them and become stronger?” said former 49ers head coach and Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary.
The Duracell “Trust Your Power” campaign encourages fans to share their own stories by utilizing a #TrustYourPower hashtag on Twitter or via Duracell’s Facebook page. Each post unlocks a $1 commitment from Duracell, up to $200,000, which will provide disadvantaged youth with scholarships to attend ProCamps, an organization that runs professional athletes’ personal sports camps for kids. The $200,000 donation will help send 1,000 kids ages 7 to 14 to the camps of their favorite professional athletes. Additionally, Duracell and Willis will be visiting underfunded schools across the country to provide them with Duracell-powered equipment students can use on and off the field, such as flashlights, stopwatches and calculators.
Duracell’s ability to focus on both Willis and their fans’ stories furthers the goals of their brand values without saturating the campaign with obvious brand plugs. It’s a refreshing take on cause branding, de-emphasizing the brand and instead focusing whole-heartedly on the emotional bond between the consumer and the cause at hand. This isn’t a campaign based on trying to sell more batteries. For Duracell, it’s about a red thread they share with individuals like Willis.
Duracell has been able to create an overwhelming amount of buzz for their brand by putting the incredible story of Patrick Willis and the good they are trying to accomplish for other disadvantaged youth before their own brand story. “Trust Your Power” is an emotional campaign that successfully furthers Duracell’s brand integrity without losing sight of the stories they are trying to tell and the goals they are aiming to accomplish.
So remember, don’t be afraid to “trust the power” of a good brand story.