The Case of Shock Doctor


Shocking, yet True

In this blog, we’re going to get a bit more specific than we typically do. The idea is general, but the example is exact. The idea is refreshing a sporting goods brand. That example is our client, Shock Doctor, and playing a small role in scene one is our client, McDavid USA.

Shock Doctor is primarily known for their innovations in the development and marketing of mouthguards. While they produce a great deal of other athletic-related performance and protection items, they cut their teeth (which is a weird phrase) on mouthguards (which actually prevent you from cutting your teeth).

We were deep into a full-on rebrand of McDavid USA, whose key focus was and is on performance and protection athletic/medical products. Think game-ready braces and supports for joints, and under-layer protective padding. But no mouthguards. Shock Doctor was their competition in the non-mouthguard arena.

The Doctor Is In

After a highly successful rebranding of McDavid, the company was not only selling merchandise at an unprecedented rate, it was also attracting attention from potential suitors. Eventually the question was popped, McDavid said, “I do,” and they entered into a merger agreement with Shock Doctor, Cutters Gloves, Nathan Sports and other athletic brands to form United Sports Brands (USB).

Now Shock Doctor is in…the family. No longer a McDavid competitor, which thankfully for us, now became a new client of ours. SD and McD were now siblings, with indeed, a certain amount of rivalry, as they had considerable crossover in product offerings. This was a task of brand integration while creating brand separation—a very rare and tricky piece of marketing surgery.

But today, we’re talking mouthguards.


Well, That’s a Mouthful

We were put to work on the Shock Doctor challenge. Was their brand faltering? Did their logo need redesigning? Did they need a new tagline? Was their brand architecture unstable or crumbling? No, no, no, no and no.

Was their mouthguard (the flagship product) marketing and merchandising a mess? Yes, and yes.

The Shock Doctor mouthguard line had exploded with types, variations, sizes, colors, and flavors (yes, flavors). Standing before the SD mouthguard display at Dick’s Sporting Goods was a bit like facing a NASA blackboard covered with an unsolvable astrophysics equation. “Oh wait, my kid has braces… now what!?” as the parent runs screaming from the store.

It wasn’t necessarily our job to cull down the product selection, as there were valid reasons for the wide selection, our job was to make it accessible and shoppable.
The offering was fragmented with no connection at retail and no through line in marketing. In addition, we were tasked not only with bringing Zen-like organization, but also new creative juice, to the mouthguard line.


What’s The Fearless Idea?

Shock Doctor had a long and valid history of innovation, and they leaned into it hard. How many brands claim to be boldly innovative? By our calculations… a sh*t load too many.

While SD fully deserved the moniker of “innovative,” it wasn’t resonating with their audiences. As Derek likes to say, “Sports are cool.” And SD mouthguards were not cool. And making SD MGs cool would not only create sales, but it would also create a needed awareness of dental safety, and potentially, some protection from concussion. Cool was smart.

Where was the passion and fire for the game? That’s when we landed on “A Mouthful of Fearless.” Innovative Shock Doctor mouthguards add to your level of fearlessness. This is the line that drove further mouthguard marketing at retail and beyond.


First: Story

We needed to get Shock Doctor’s human story in order and make it easily relatable. We dug in to discover the essence of their persona and the best ways to express that persona. Once we had that dialed in, we needed to turn that NASA blackboard into a welcoming and simplified grab-and-go shopping experience—literally and virtually. Plans were fully developed for retail, online, and a handful of initial marketing campaigns.

We created an ongoing process, definable by style and brand guides, touch points, and creative assets, that they could execute with their internal team. We stepped back, but as always, remained on stand-by to assist in any capacity.
For instance, in this case, developing ad campaigns for and directing photo shoots with Shock Doctor NBA ambassador athletes. Derek can now say he went one-on-one with Boogie Cousins… sports are cool.


Chew on that for a while,

Team Sussner


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