DeMarcus Ware is talking tough about underwear. The Dallas Cowboys defensive star was out in Manhattan last night and some guy had asked him what he’s doing here. “I said I’m here with Depend, promoting prostate cancer awareness,” Ware says. “And he said, ‘Depend!’ He just kept laughing. And me, being myself, I said I really don’t think it’s funny.” Ware’s face tightens: He’s a nice guy, but he can turn to stone instantly. “So that’s what I try to let everyone know: It’s not funny. This right here is real. We can make light of it, but this is how we roll.”
Ware is sitting in a conference room of the PR firm Marina Maher Communications, where he’s doing Depend interviews all day today. A few boxes of the underwear are displayed in the corner of the room. He’s represented Campbell’s Chunky Soup and Duracell in the past, but he’s now fully embracing a product that some call adult diapers. It isn’t easy for a company like this to attract celebrity spokesmen, though it’s had an okay run in the past: June Allyson, Errol Morris, Lisa Rinna, Clay Matthews, P.J. Stock, and Isabelle Brasseur. But last year it scored Ware and two other NFL players, Wes Welker and Clay Matthews, and is now pushing their campaign hard. These are young, fit guys. They don’t have bladder control issues (which isn’t to say that the previous spokesmen do). So how were they talked into this?
Ware admits it took some time. Depend first approached him about two years ago. “The first thing I thought about was, I’m not doing that. I’m supposed to be a defensive guy, macho guy, roaar. I’m not trying it on; guys are going to make fun of me,” he says. But Depend was ready for this: It wasn’t asking him to pitch straight, like Texas Rangers slugger Rafael Palmeiro hawked Viagra. It was inviting him into a campaign called the “Great American Try On,” which is basically celebrities trying on a product they don’t need. That may not be the most logical construct–it’s like saying, “If it’s good enough for DeMarcus Ware to wear for a minute, it’s good enough for you to wear every day.” But it does open the door to younger, fresher spokesmen. And there’s a charity component. “I thought about it two or three days,” says Ware, “and thought, You know what? It’s not about me. It’s not just about putting on this type of underwear. (Prostate cancer is) an epidemic in men.”
Depend couldn’t have said it better.
The company then takes care to clarify its new spokesmen’s needs, and lack thereof. In a TV spot to introduce the campaign, a cheesy Depend spokesman spots Ware and two other NFL players idling around on a football field. He carries a box of its new Real Fit briefs with him, and opens with, “I know you don’t need one, but will you try these on for charity and prove just how great the fit is?” The fellas debate. Then, of course, they make the right decision.
Which means that, yes, Ware really has worn Depend. “I’ve tried it on,” he says. “It’s nice! I don’t have to wear it, but I tried it on. It’s cool.”