Wheaties Makes Marketing Strike With Retro Bowling Ads

The Cereal Brand Spotlights Old Bowling Star

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The Breakfast of Champions is going bowling. Wheaties -- known for partnering with A-list sports stars like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods -- for its newest campaign is spotlighting a pro bowler whose heyday was back in the mid-20th Century.

That would be Andy Varipapa, who was known as much for his trick-shot making as his winning. Ads featuring vintage footage of Mr. Varipapa -- who died in 1984 -- will run during a Professional Bowlers Association event that will begin airing on Sunday on ESPN.

The ads (examples above and below) are part of Wheaties sponsorship of a PBA tournament series that occurs in Maine. As part of the deal, Wheaties will sponsor one of the competing teams, whose members will wear Wheaties bowling shirts. Other brands sponsoring teams include Geico and Barbasol, according to the PBA.

The campaign, which will also get paid digital support, was created in house by brand-owner General Mills.

Air Jordan, this ain't. But as a marketing play, it's not a gutter ball, either.

"Bowling happens to be one of those sports that is equally appealing to [baby] boomers and millennials," said General Mills Chief Creative Officer Michael Fanuele. It is the top participation sport in the U.S. -- excluding fitness activities -- with about 46.2 million people bowling at least once in a year, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

"In researching the history of bowling, there was one guy above all else who exhibited the spirit of a champion that Wheaties has always admired and applauded, and so [Mr. Varipapa] became our hero," Mr. Fanuele said.

Mr. Varipapa was "the supreme bowler of his time and one of the sport's best attractions for more than a quarter of a century," according to a New York Times obituary published in 1984, which noted that he was "popular for his trick shots as well as his normal prowess."

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