PowerBar budget gets healthy hike to $20 mil

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As PowerBar embarks on its first full year as a Nestle USA product, the leading energy bar brand will get a media blitz worthy of its wealthy parent.

Already this year, the behemoth food marketer has stepped up spending, more than doubling PowerBar's $7 million 1999 budget. The upcoming year's effort will further draw upon the power of the purse with a $20 million outlay slated for 2001. And in a major change, the bulk of the budget will be focused on print and radio rather than TV.

"Nestle is interested in investing in the business to build topline growth, especially because they need it to be a healthy business domestically in order to extend it globally," said Christine Dahm, director of marketing for the PowerBar unit.


The first step in the new marketing plan is to shift focus away from the more generic PowerBar brand toward the more narrowly defined sub-brands within the portfolio, such as PowerBar Harvest and PowerBar ProteinPlus.

"When you look at the PowerBar portfolio, most people know the original PowerBar, which has a No. 1 share in the category," Ms. Dahm said. "But we've had a hard time translating that awareness to newer products we've launched and, in order for us to continue to grow to our potential, we need to build awareness levels and trial of newer products."

In addition, though PowerBar will finish out its Summer Olympics TV advertising and has committed again to TV buys around the upcoming Winter Olympic Games, ad buys going forward will concentrate on more targeted print and spot radio in key markets. Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., is the agency.


"The energy bar category has only a 10% household penetration, and even as the leader, we have only a fraction of that," Ms. Dahm said. As a result, TV buys have proven wasteful, she said.

The shift in focus and media, Ms. Dahm was quick to point out, is "not a dictate from [Nestle] corporate headquarters." Rather, the decision came from the PowerBar team, led by General Manager Frank Higgins. The strategy is based on data gathered over the last six months, she said.

PowerBar Harvest, redefined to stand on its own as a breakfast bar, will receive at least $6 million in media backing. The ads, still in development at Wieden, will position the fruit- and grain-based bars as a nutritious way to "seize the day" and will highlight the new Harvest "dipped" varieties. Toffee Chocolate Chip (dipped in chocolate) and Iced Oatmeal Raisin (dipped in natural white yogurt) hit stores in October.


Harvest ads will appear in nine national magazines, among them Outside and Shape, as well as on spot radio to reach the brand's dual male/female target. PowerBar also will distribute more than 5 million samples through regional newspapers, health clubs, Internet-sampling vehicles and on bottles of spring water brands owned by Nestle sibling Perrier Group of America.

The original PowerBar also will get at least $6 million in media aimed at a "psychographic" target, largely male, but people dedicated to exercise, especially endurance activities. Ads in publications such as Runner's World may not continue the previous "Don't bonk" tagline because the humorous TV spots depicting athletes running out of energy "might not translate easily into print," Ms. Dahm said.

PowerBar ProteinPlus, billed as a post-workout recovery bar that helps repair muscles, will get first-time media spending of more than $4 million in 2001. The ads, targeted at a mostly male audience, will appear in men's magazines such as Maxim and Men's Health, and in 300 Bally Total Fitness Corp. club locations.

The PowerBar Essentials line is going through a product repositioning PowerBar hopes to unveil in February. The line has not been as successful as the other energy bar brands, Ms. Dahm said.M

Mr. Higgins, though a career Nestle man, left from 1994 to 1998 to become PowerBar's CEO. Although he returned to Nestle the year before the acquisition, and so is technically an "official Nestle person," he is seen as "an insider and as a person who understands the brand and how to make it grow," Ms. Dahm said.

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