Suppose you stepped into an elevator and found Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, George Blanda, Tommy Bolt, Jimmy Connors, Larry Csonka, Wilt Chamberlain, Tom Seaver, Pancho Gonzales, Pelé, Joe Namath and the irrepressible Muhammad Ali waiting to go up. You might be even more shocked when the doors closed, to find that they all smelled the same. The distinctive, pungent odor of Brut lotion would be more pervasive than a London fog, though a lot more pleasant. For beginning with Mantle in 1969, these athletes have all appeared in Brut television commercials. Although TV companies change ad campaigns as rapidly as Cincinnati changes its pitchers, Fabergé, the corporation that concocts Brut, has stuck with using name athletes to sell the fragrance. "The idea came to me on the golf course," says Arch Nadler, chairman of the Madison Avenue ad firm of Nadler & Larimer that handles Fabergé. "I decided that athletes, whose virility is unquestioned, could make statements about a fragrance that would be different and memorable."
So there was Mantle, looking uncomfortable, sitting in one of those talk-show swivel chairs, gabbing about his chain of men's clothing stores, saying that they were "selling a lot of Brut in there."
Mantle and Mays did their Brut spots for a few thousand dollars; now athletes' business managers ask for five-figure contracts for making the commercial. "Doing a Brut ad has become a measure of an athlete's recognition," says Fabergé President Richard Barrie. "It's a way to know just where you stand. We get hundreds of requests from sports figures every year to do these ads."
Barrie's 38th floor Manhattan office looks like the living room of a well-to-do Arizona cattle rancher, with leather couches, Western statuary, cacti and an elaborate Western saddle on a stand in one corner, a prize from an East Coast Cutting Horse competition. Barrie raises quarter horses on his New Jersey "ranch" and is an avid sports fan. "We signed Joe Namath to a long-term contract last July," he says, a 20-year $5 million deal to represent Brut [Namath will do a series of TV spots during the summer Olympics] and I think perhaps that came about as much through my own friendship with Joe as through our sense of sales."
Brut is No. 1 in the U.S. in expensive men's fragrances, holding a healthy lead over Aramis. And in more than 120 countries, particularly in Europe—where men have been dousing themselves with sweet-smelling lotions for centuries—Brut is also making a name for itself. If you flip on the telly in London, there is Henry Cooper, the former British heavyweight champ, sitting in a Brut 33 bubble bath, a rather awesome sight. In Rome you can see the multi-lingual Pelé play his guitar and sing about Brut—in Italian. So successful is the whole odoriferous operation that Fabergé will launch a new scent—Macho—in the fall. One can only wonder who will be tapped to advertise the new product. Mean Joe Greene? Ilie Nastase? Marvin Miller? The Philadelphia Flyers? In a world where locker-room odors are those of sweat, blood, Ben-Gay, rubbing alcohol and beer, one can only guess what Macho will smell like.