You’ve probably already seen that Phil Mickelson ad where he does “The Worm” and dodges golf balls, which is pretty remarkable considering it came out on Thursday morning. It traveled quickly. One example among many: I put out the ad on my Twitter feed shortly after 9 a.m. ET on Thursday and in 24 hours it was up to 422,000 views.
The ad, by performance dress shirt brand Mizzen+Main, who made Mickelson a part-owner, was so outrageous that we decided we needed to hear the story behind the making of it.
Mizzen+Main CEO Kevin Lavelle: After signing Phil, my creative director said we should do an ad showing how our shirts stretch and perform by having Phil dodge golf balls being hit at him. Instead of just dodging balls, he should be dancing to … Ghostland Observatory’s “Vibrate.” I was not terribly excited about pitching this concept to one of the top athletes in the world mere weeks after he agreed to partner with us, already catapulting us into a new level of national conversation. Surely, he would doubt my sanity.
Shortly thereafter, we were meeting with him to go over a few things and Amy (Mickelson’s wife) was with us. I slowly eased my way into this pitch, then went for it and played the song on my iPhone. Amy immediately started laughing while Phil broke out into a big smile. Amy looked at him and said, “Should I tell him or should you?” to which Phil replied “Go for it.” Amy’s was overjoyed to share: “Phil can do The Worm!” At this moment I knew we would make this happen. I then got to see some home videos of Phil’s extraordinary dancing skills, along with The Worm and the high kick.
Phil: I don’t take myself too seriously. When I realized that I would be dancing to Ghostland Observatory, which I had to Google, Amy couldn’t help cracking up because, well, she’s been subjected to my dancing for years. It took me awhile to get comfortable with the idea of dancing on what would be on national television, but once I did, it was so much fun to shoot.
Amy Mickelson: Phil loves to have fun, and not many people have gotten to see the true extent of his dance moves. I couldn’t help but laugh when I heard the concept, because I knew he would absolutely nail it in a perfectly Phil way.
Lavelle: So from there, we started the quick turn of planning, including the warehouse, buying 2,000 square feet of golf grass to shoot on, and hiring our lighting, camera, and VFX crews.
Richard Ross, Director: We showed Phil the dance and he understandably was a little hesitant at first, but he was really gracious and gave it a go. We started breaking the routine down step by step, and he picked it up easily and nailed it. The Worm was obviously a highlight. My wife, Layne, choreographed it and did great teaching it to him. A huge team effort.
Lavelle: The ad took about 90 minutes to shoot. We’re a nimble crew, and Phil was a champ.
Ross: I’ve seen this video a hundred times and I’m still blown away by his performance. We were amazed when we first saw it. Even playback on set, the whole crew cheered him on.
Lavelle: We wanted to do something that highlighted what our product is capable of on one of the most well-known athletes of all time with this spot. Of course we wanted significant coverage, site traffic, sales, etc. Everyone always wants that. This ad was the absolute perfect combination of both of those main goals: demonstration of product and virality. It’s so much more than I thought it could be. I am absolutely thrilled, and I know Phil is too. He loves it.
What the company definitely nailed was eyeballs. Whether Mickelson was good or bad at dancing — that’s up to the viewers — one thing’s clear: it was so over the top that it’s impossible not to see — or unsee — what Phil was doing on Thursday.
“I’ll do private (lessons) for the right price,” Mickelson told the AP after his round at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Thursday.