To Hype Dr. Squatch Soap, Free Solo Star Trades Rock Climbing for Thumb Wrestling

Alex Honnold gives the natural grooming brand a playful thumbs up

Alex Honnold just shared a major announcement: He's given up rock climbing to focus on thumb wrestling. 

Think this is for real? Get a grip!

It's the premise of a new campaign for Dr. Squatch, the men's natural personal-care brand, and the athlete is gamely playing along. Honnold has even agreed to engage in thumb wrestling matches with anyone who wants to challenge him at a special event that will take place on June 7 at the Venice Beach, Calif., boardwalk.

Anyone who beats Honnold (aka "Big Thumb") and celebrates the victory by posting on social will walk away with $250 and a year's supply of product. 

Already a niche sports star, Honnold became widely known among the general public thanks to the Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo. The film captures his quest to become the first person to free solo climb (sans safety ropes) to the summit of El Capitan, a 3,000-foot sheer rock wall in Yosemite National Park.

Honnold joined the Dr. Squatch team last year. Free Solo Scrub, his signature soap, launches in July. This stunt is designed to draw attention to that product and Dr. Squatch’s general ethos, summed up by the tagline, "Feel Like a Man, Smell Like a Champion."

When Dr. Squatch initially reached out to Honnold, the rock climber wasn't sure he was the right fit. "He kind of roasted us a little," recalls John Ludeke, the brand's senior director of marketing. "He said, 'When you guys first called me, I thought: soap company? Why would I work for a soap company? I don't even use soap most of the time. I just steal it from hotels when I need it.'" 

Honnold subsequently researched Dr. Squatch and gave the merch a try. His positive experience inspired the slogan, "I don't always shower, but when I do, I use Dr. Squatch," which appears on Free Solo Scrub's packaging and the company's website.

"Alex is out there, he's pushing the limits. He's an athlete in nature, but more importantly, from a personality standpoint, similar to Dr. Squatch, he also doesn't take himself too seriously," Ludeke says. "We found the best way to engage with our audience is by being funny and irreverent and disruptive."

People who can't attend the Venice Beach event still have a chance to square off against Honnold—hand to hand, as it were.

"If anyone finds Alex anywhere in the U.S. this summer, they can challenge him to a thumb wrestling match, and he'll compete," Ludeke says.

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