Why Maytag chose the MLB All Star Game to debut its new commercials

Whirpool "Factory" by by DigitasLBi Chicago.
Whirpool "Factory" by by DigitasLBi Chicago.

American men, washing machines and an "evolving relationship"

At first, it seems like your average pickup truck commercial. The opening shot of a factory floor; the massive American flag dangling from the rafters; the determined, patriotic music. Just the sort of ad you’ve seen a hundred times on the MLB All-Star Game.

But then, who rolls into frame but the Maytag repairman, transported across the factory floor like the transmission from a 2003 Chevy Tahoe.

"They don’t just build Maytag washers here," says the repairman in a booming voice. An assembly line churns out dozens of the mascot’s signature hats and ties, as machines adjust the collars on a conveyor belt full of identical repairman. "They build big, beautiful monuments to dependability."

For the first time, Whirlpool is using the MLB All-Star game to debut a new ad campaign for its Maytag line of washing machines and dryers. In fact, it’s the first time Maytag has aired a commercial on any live MLB broadcast.

Like the commercials that earned Silver and Gold Effies last month, the new spots, created by DigitasLBi Chicago, use the Maytag repairmen as a stand-in for the appliances themselves.

But unlike the bulk of the brand’s previous efforts, this campaign is aimed squarely at men. In addition to the new commercial, Maytag is partnering with MLB throughout the 2015 season, a deal that includes in-game promotions, giveaways and charity tie-ins.

The emphasis on sports and its male-skewing demographic reflects a shift in American consumer habits, said Brendan Bosch, senior brand manager for Maytag. Men have not only been taking a larger role in appliance purchase decisions, they have been evolving their relationships with the machines themselves, he said.

"There’s a trend of appliances becoming more important in men’s lives," Bosch said. "We also know that, next to cars, appliances are kind of the biggest thing all year a family will be spending money on. Males are quite influential on those purchase decisions, so we decided, why not carve out part of our budget and communicate our benefits to them?"

As part of the MLB partnership, fans will be invited to vote on the "Filthiest Plays of the Week" throughout the seasons. Four ballparks will also install Maytag top-loading washing machines beyond the outfield; when a player hits a home run into one of the machines, the company will donate $1 million to the local Boys & Girls Clubs.

The Maytag repairman has a storied history in advertising, dating back to 1967, when his perpetual loneliness helped communicate the dependability of the machines. After being retired in 1987, the repairman was resurrected in recent years as a staunch, dependable stand-in for the appliances themselves — a tactic that Bosch says has paid off.

"We’ve seen all our brand metrics go really very high," he said. "He’s the embodiment of what our consumers want in the appliances they’re looking for."

"He’s reliable, he never talks back, never addresses the homemaker in the ad," Bosch continued. "He is there to do her bidding. It really drives a lot of brand affinity."

This time, to appeal to men, Whirlpool is focusing on the product’s American heritage — the company employs over 22,000 American workers, six of whom appear in the new commercial — and durability.

"We see a trend recently of people really going back to buying products that are from the US," said Bosch. "We feel like this is a story we’ve always told, but haven’t told it on this big a stage."

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