ROLD GOLD BITES BACK

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The success of Frito-Lay's Baked Lay's is chipping away at sibling snack brand Rold Gold, so the marketer is hoping two new flavors and a Chicago Bull/Dream Teamer paired with its Pretzel Boy will even the field.

Frito next month moves into two markets with a cheese flavored Rold Gold and a new flavor it won't disclose. At about the same time, it will unveil a new TV spot for the pretzels, breaking on NBC's Olympics coverage.

SCORING WITH PIPPEN

In the spot, Chicago Bull Scottie Pippen is teamed with "Seinfeld" star Jason Alexander, introduced in Rold Gold's 1995 campaign as Pretzel Boy.

Rold Gold's sales dip comes as consumer preference shifts from pretzels-a hot product the last few years because of a healthy image-to Frito's baked versions of Lay's and Tostitos chips.

The company shelled out more than $50 million in advertising for Baked Lay's beginning in January, with its supermodels campaign, while advertising for Rold Gold stalled.

While neither Frito nor Rold Gold agency DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, would comment on the creative in the new spot, it's believed the company will hold to its strategy of positioning Mr. Alexander as the "everyman" character fantasizing about being a sports hero. An earlier execution showed him imagining himself as a hockey goalie with observers crediting the pretzels for his athletic abilities.

To strengthen the association with Mr. Pippen, Frito is adding the basketball player's image to Rold Gold bags; the Dream Team player is already on Lay's and Wavy Lay's packages.

According to Competitive Media Reporting, Frito spent $15.7 million on Rold Gold in 1995 but spending fell to $7,000 for the first six months of this year.

SALES DROP 14%

The result, according to Paine-Webber analyst Manny Goldman, was a 14% sales decline for Rold Gold during April and a volume decline for the overall pretzel category of 13% that same month.

"It appears that with the success of Baked Tostitos and Baked Lay's, sales of Rold Gold pretzels have suffered," he said.

Sales of Baked Tostitos during the same period were up 44% while Baked Lay's jumped 55%.

"Don't forget, we had a huge Baked Lay's launch...and there's been no support [for Rold Gold] since then," said a Frito official.

Using Mr. Alexander as a Rold Gold spokesman has worked magic for Frito in the past. The original Pretzel Boy spot, showing Mr. Alexander supposedly parachuting out of an airplane and into the Super Bowl, helped sales nearly triple to $185.4 million for the year ended June 30, 1995.

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