brand of champions

Michael Phelps is going to appear on Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes cereal boxes. Apparently Phelps passed on posing on Wheaties boxes where he has appeared before, so says US Magazine (not the most reliable source of business news, I know, but it’s the only one I found that had an explanation for this interesting development.)

General Mills, on the other hand, just announced they’ve snagged Nastia Luikin and Brian Clay, Olympic winners in gymnastics and the decathlon respectively, to appear on the front of their Wheaties boxes.  As a reminder Wheaties, the “breakfast of champions,” practically invented the practice of athlete endorsements when it debuted a box featuring Lou Gehrig back in 1934.

I’ll let others argue whether Phelps is a better catch than Luikin and Clay — what I find fascinating is the contrast between the two brands’ strategies.

According to Marta Cyhan, Vice President, Global Promotions, Kellogg Company, Michael was chosen because he “embodies the values behind our Frosted Flakes Earn Your Stripes™ program. He knows that winning is not just about the glory that comes with gold medals, but about good sportsmanship, working hard and being your best.”  Apparently the Earn Your Stripes program is designed to encourage kids to eat right, be more active and work hard to achieve all of their goals.

So it seems Kellogg’s is employing a 2-pronged approach — using Phelps’ picture to get kids’ attention on the shelf (and in the pantry) and tying his good-ol-American-boy image to the company’s social responsibility platform in order to earn props with parents.

General Mills‘ celebrity tie in is part of a new brand platform for Wheaties called “Jumpstart Your Metabolism™”which invites people to “discover how eating Wheaties can give you the best chance at winning.”  Their site has a serious look and feel and includes a link to research on muscle recovery.

General Mills, I have to conclude therefore, has elected to target adults who are serious about athletic performance — and to utilize Luikin and Clay to bolster the brand’s credentials as a product for serious athletes.

Two different strategies — for two different brands.  I see Corn Flakes’ approach as tried-and-true, but somewhat tired, while Wheaties is breaking new ground in the cereal category.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out in grocery store sales data — and brand perceptions — over time.

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