Bagel Bites finds tween target as X Games sponsor

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Bagel Bites has gone to extremes to capture the tween audience.

The 15-year-old Heinz Frozen Food Co. frozen pizza-flavor snack brand this year changed its marketing tack to target boys instead of moms. Following a successful tie-in with ESPN's 2000 Winter X Games, the bite-size snack will have a considerable presence at this week's Summer X Games in San Francisco.

Bagel Bites will try to woo the under-16 set through signage, sampling and promotions. The company will also leverage its relationship with championship skateboarder Tony Hawk in upcoming TV and radio ads, as well as on-package promotions and public relations efforts.

Bagel Bites packages that hit store shelves next month feature an extreme-themed sweepstakes. Contest winners receive prizes such as a trip to the 2001 Winter X Games, Tony Hawk-branded merchandise and free Bagel Bites.


"Until mid last year, we were very much targeting moms as gatekeepers," said Richard Yoder, senior product manager-snacks, for Heinz Frozen Foods. "There wasn't any marketing targeted to the end user -- the tween."

At the end of 1999, Heinz executives decided ESPN, and its X Games, provided the ideal vehicle for its new direction. Bagel Bites signed on to sponsor the Winter X Games, which was watched by more than 2 million TV households and drew 83,000 spectators, according to ESPN.

"We were looking for something that was very high profile," said Mr. Yoder. "Taking it to the X Games was something we knew was a proven property that tweens really gravitate to."


Mr. Yoder also cited a Harris Interactive Survey that said ESPN's X Games was the second most appealing sporting event to 6-to-17-year-olds, behind the Olympic Games.

To gain tween eyeballs, Heinz earlier this year shifted the media buys for its existing advertising from adult-oriented shows to programming on ESPN, MTV, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. That advertising, from agency DDB Worldwide, San Francisco, featured teens playing street hockey while a mother heats up Bagel Bites.

"In the short term, we [decided] to use the same spot, but change the media buy to go against teens," said Mr. Yoder. Future advertising from DDB will feature Mr. Hawk and "dial up the attitude more," according to Mr. Yoder.

He said Heinz decided to switch targets in an effort to differentiate itself in the frozen snack category. Bagel Bites' two main competitors -- Pillsbury's Totinos pizza rolls and Chef America Toaster Breaks -- were also targeting the mom market. Heinz, in turn, decided to use a strategy Mr. Yoder deemed the "nag factor." Instead of pushing to moms, the new approach would entice tweens to ask parents to buy the snacks.

To get a feel for the target, Heinz held focus groups, conducted research with teen-oriented research companies such as Teenage Research Unlimited, and solicited help from DDB and its promotions agency, Marketing Drive Worldwide, Wilton, Conn.

After the 2000 Winter X Games, results told the company it was going in the right direction.

For the 13-week period ended July 22, Bagel Bite consumption increased 21% from the same period in 1999. In addition, shipment volume for January through March, was up 16% vs. the same period a year ago.

Bagel Bites is the No. 2 frozen appetizer/snack brand behind Totinos, according to Heinz.

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