The Gitchhiker

Gitchhiker21-623x350Stanfield’s is a small Canadian underwear company that’s been in business for 150 years. Prior to its “Guy at Home in his Underwear” social media campaign in 2010 (which raised over $52,000 for testicular cancer research and was one of the 2011 Cause + Action winners), the brand had little to no support, and most young men saw it as their dad’s underwear brand (or worse, their grandfather’s).

The brand wanted to build on previous efforts, become emotionally relevant to a younger audience, and subsequently position itself as the ultimate Canadian underwear brand – all on a modest $200,000 budget.

In November 2012, Stanfield’s worked with Toronto-based John St. to create a program that challenged one man to hitchhike across the country to the company’s flagship factory, wearing nothing but the brand’s underwear in the dead of winter.

Stanfield’s promised that if he could get there within 21 days, it would donate $20,000 to support men’s below-the-waist cancer research, a pledge that fit perfectly with the brand’s motto, “We Support Men.”

Stanfield’s challenged the first-ever “Gitchhiker” – testicular cancer survivor Mark McIntyre – to travel across Canada for the Canadian Cancer Society. His job was to raise awareness and support for the non-profit by handing out free underwear (featuring the thumbs-up hitchhiking sign) as he travelled across Canada.

A Facebook app allowed fans to follow every aspect of this journey, including his location, the temperature where he was travelling and what underwear he was wearing. Fans could also help support his efforts by giving him gifts, submitting dares or even signing up to give him a ride to his next destination. The Gitchhiker was given complete control of the brand’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, where he posted pictures, videos and even pleas for help when he couldn’t find a ride.

Within 21 days, the Gitchhiker campaign raised a total of $32,398 for the Canadian Cancer Society – a combination of Stanfield’s contribution (which it increased to $27,000) and fan donations along the way.

With no paid advertising to support it, the campaign generated more than 43 million media impressions, with the Gitchhiker completing 64 separate interviews on television and radio programs, including several segments on CBC and CTV national news. In addition, underwear sales increased by 50% during the campaign, and Facebook fans grew by 500%. The campaign won a Cause + Action award in 2013 and this write up can be seen on Strategy Online.

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