General Mills Serves Up Tennis for Brits This Summer

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It's summer in England, and that means tennis at Wimbledon, where spectators enjoy matches along with strawberries and cream (and it usually rains). To add to the excitement this year, Johanna Konta is the first British woman to make it to a semi-final at Wimbledon since 1978.

Her success is good news for General Mills. The marketer signed up Konta as part of a big push on tennis this summer across its Nature Valley and Haagen-Dazs brands.

Konta stars in a campaign themed "#The Court is Yours" for Nature Valley's protein bars, spearheaded by a humorous video from agency Space showing amateur players of all ages, shapes and sizes trying their hands at tennis -- with varying degrees of success.

The campaign is part of a push, in partnership with the Lawn Tennis Association and the Association of Tennis Professionals, to get more people playing the game.

Arjoon Bose, marketing lead for snacking at General Mills, said, "We want to inspire people to play tennis more often and bust the myth that it's not accessible. Jo is an approachable ambassador and the film shows her having fun with real people. You don't need to be a pro."

In the U.K., tennis still carries the same air of class and privilege that is associated with the All England Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon. Nature Valley is working with the LTA to democratize the sport, by setting up a database of free public courts and providing free equipment and coaching clinics.

Nature Valley's protein bars were launched in the U.K. two years ago and already lead the market: sales grew 60% last year to $13 million. "It's a big innovation area and we've had explosive growth," Bose added.

Another General Mills brand, Haagen-Dazs (licensed to Nestlé in North America), is now in its second year as an official sponsor of Wimbledon. The brand has created a limited edition flavor, Strawberries and Cream, especially for the championships, which comes in packaging designed by Swedish tennis ace Björn Borg.

Borg also hosted a pop-up shop in London selling tennis gear, as well as doling out free ice cream. The association with the Swede is part of Haagen-Dazs' push to reconnect with its Scandinavian roots. The brand is doing an international relaunch this summer with new packaging and an ad campaign by Saatchi & Saatchi London based on "Every day made extraordinary."

Jennifer Jorgensen, global brand director on Haagen-Dazs and a VP at General Mils, said, "It's a wonderful, iconic brand, but it lost its way a little by not bringing on younger consumers – we want them to have the same connection that Generation X had in the 90s, and to fall back in love with the brand. [Haagen-Dazs] is not life-changing, but it's a powerful little luxury."

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