Back to school: Kraft eschews TV for pop star promo

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Kraft Foods will make music the centerpiece of its annual multi-brand back-to-school effort, eschewing its longtime association with Nickelodeon to sponsor tween pop star Aaron Carter's summer tour.

Although Kraft continues its tie to Nickelodeon, and plans to announce a large-scale 2003 event with the kids' property this fall, the food behemoth wanted to diversify its back-to-school effort and tap into kids' obsession with music and the desire to be famous.

"We came up with a concept that we really liked, and Nickelodeon is not necessarily focused on music," said David Ervin, manager of Kraft Alliances. While he was quick to stress the continuation of Kraft's relationship with Nickelodeon and the upcoming "fully-integrated program" in the works, Mr. Ervin said the company, "wants to make sure we're being strategic about the usage" of the partnership.

Kraft will not use TV advertising to tout this year's back-to-school effort, instead allocating "the bulk of our dollars to the tour," Mr. Ervin said. Kraft will be the primary sponsor of Aaron Carter's 30-city summer tour, which kicked off last week, receiving mentions in local advertising for the tour as well as signage and ticket backs. Kraft's Chips Ahoy! brand was a secondary sponsor of Britney Spears' most recent tour, but the company overall has not backed a tour with multiple brands since its own Kraft Country Tour in the mid-'90s, according to a Kraft spokeswoman. Kraft declined to give spending for the effort.

Meet aaron carter

Kraft will feature an instant-win "Be a Pop Star" game-offering five grand-prize trips to Los Angeles to meet Aaron Carter and make a demo CD-on 65 million packages across 10 product lines including Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Kraft Singles, Oreos, Cheese Nips, Post cereals and Ritz crackers. Additionally, consumers can win one of 10,000 Karaoke machines. In-store lobby displays will feature the school bus Kraft used successfully last year to merchandise its Nabisco biscuit products, enhanced this year with Aaron Carter's image.

Aaron Carter, brother of Nick Carter of the popular Backstreet Boys, garnered great tween-appeal with his 2000 album, "Aaron's Party (Come Get It)" and several hit singles. Since then, the young sensation has opened for Britney Spears' U.S. concerts and been the subject of a biography, written by his mother. Mr. Carter's third album, "Another Earthquake," will make its debut Sept. 3.

Other displays featuring the combined portfolio of Kraft and Nabisco brands throughout the store will feature life-sized cutouts of the star, who was voted No. 1 Pop Star in a January 2002 Tiger Beat poll. The display will also feature tear pad coupons for $1 off school supplies, a tactic that was popular last year with both moms and retailers.

Print ads, developed by Kraft promo shop East/West Creative, New York, will feature all the participating brands and tout the "Be a pop star" promotion in such kid-targeted publications as Walt Disney Co.'s Disney Adventure, Time Inc.'s SI for Kids and Viacom's Nickelodeon. In previous years, Kraft alternated agencies from among the participating brands to handle TV advertising, but print was handled by its promotional agency.

The effort will also be touted with an Internet site, toomunchfun.com, where Kraft will feature music-related entertainment and information.

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