MBPT Spotlight: Kellogg’s Goes For Gold in New 2014 Winter Olympics Marketing Push

The Kellogg Co. has been serving breakfast since 1906, encompassing over the years such iconic brands as Corn Flakes, Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispies, Apple Jacks, Froot Loops, Honey Smacks, Frosted Mini-Wheats, Special K, Pop-Tarts and Eggo.

Since 1976, Kellogg’s has also been part of the U.S. Olympic movement via sponsorship of teams and athletes. The company supported the Games from 1976-92 and the U.S. Olympic teams from 2000-08. During this time, a variety of Kellogg brands have carried the U.S. Olympic rings and other symbols.

In 2011, the Battle Creek, Mich.-based company returned as a top-tier associate by becoming an official marketing partner of the U.S. Olympic Committee, in time to activate for the 2012 London Games.

To mark the 100-day countdown to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Kellogg’s unveiled a campaign that celebrates the company’s support of U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes and hopefuls. Team Kellogg’s includes the likes of snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, Meryl Davis and Charlie White (ice dancing), Sarah Hendrickson (ski jumping), Torin Yater-Wallace (freestyle skiing), Amy Purdy (Paralympic snowboarding) and Noelle Pikus-Pace (skeleton); and Olympic legends Jim Craig (hockey) and Kristi Yamaguchi (figure skating).

A multimedia campaign will be driven by the organic mantra, “From Great Starts Come Great Things,” which ties the company’s place as a breakfast giant to the unique yet somewhat similar ways in which Olympic athletes and hopefuls got their start.

A series of “Start Stories” videos, part of the Kellogg’s “Give A Great Start” initiative, will follow Team Kellogg’s journeys to the Sochi Games and provide consumers with a chance to help give breakfast to kids in need.

According to Kellogg’s, for each view, like, re-tweet, pin or share of the athletes’ Start Stories, or Great Start online content, Kellogg’s will donate one breakfast to a child in need. Kellogg’s said its goal is to provide two million breakfasts to kids nationwide. (See all the videos here.)

Here, Sandy Uridge, senior director of integrated consumer promotions for Kellogg’s talks about the Olympics and the power of using the Games as part of a marketing plan.

There are so many brand messages that seem forced, so was there a moment when Kellogg’s thought, ‘We make breakfast, let’s focus on great beginnings?’
Looking back, it seems like a smooth, easy process. But there was a lot of work involved in making it work and getting it to resonate on many levels. It fits in so well with so many things we are doing. When you peel back what brands are doing at the Olympics, most of the world focuses on the finishes. We celebrate the start, the beginning. When you talk about breakfast being the start of the day and the most important meal of the day, it really comes together well. We are very true to our equity with Great Starts. This is a campaign that truly embodies what Kellogg’s is all about.

The Great Start activation is driven by social media, so what is the challenge to get the message out among so many other social media messages?
When we were part of the 2012 Summer Games, we talked about how that would be the most social media oriented Olympics ever. But so much has happened in the time since then. Consumers are involved in so many aspects and we are excited about that. We differentiate our message with the #GreatStarts initiative, which ties to something much bigger than our marketing campaign. It enables people to become active and engages them to make a difference. Our goal through the initiative is to provide two million breakfasts to kids across the country. So consumers are the ones who are driving that.

Many other IOC and USOC partners have official Olympic teams, so why is Kellogg’s roster of athletes and legends different?
All of the companies that support athletes who are or who want to be part of the Winter Olympics in Sochi are doing something special. We believe we have chosen a great group of Team Kellogg’s athletes. They embody the Great Starts effort. And the way in which we are connecting consumers to the athletes is very simple, yet has a great deal of impact. That will have a great deal of brand recognition among consumers. As I mentioned, Kellogg’s is about great starts every day, which is something that we want consumers to relate with when they see our team of athletes, watch the videos that show their great starts and then also have that translate into getting breakfasts to kids in need.

What other marketing elements will you activate between now and the start of the Winter Olympics in February?
There will be TV, print, Internet, mobile, more social media, employee activation, in-store through our packages. It will be a very robust campaign. We lose [the use of our athletes] once the Games start, so we will have a big ramp-up between now and early February.

One of your brands, Corn Flakes, had on its box the 2012 gold medal U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team. Do you see a potential for that in 2014?
There are something like 60 million cereal purchases made each week in stores, so that is a great consumer touch-point for us that many other companies don’t have. Packaging is a key element to us. Think about how many different cereal boxes you have, and how many times a week you look at them. It also gives us a way to extend the Olympic marketing window because these packages come out after the Games. I can’t say now in what exact manner we will use that resource, but it will be part of the overall robust campaign.

Is there a unique challenge in marketing because the Winter Games are in Sochi, which is less familiar to a U.S. audience than London or the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver?
We haven’t seen that yet. But it is a bit early, still just 100 or so days out. For most consumers, even if they don’t know exactly where Sochi is, they understand the Winter Games. So we are happy to celebrate that with consumers and with our athletes.

This interview was reprinted with permission of NYSportsJournalism.com.