Dannon Dumps John Stamos for Cam Newton

Carolina Panthers Star Backs New NFL-Branded Oikos Yogurt

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Dannon is sacking aging heartthrob John Stamos in favor of rising Carolina Panthers star Cam Newton, who will be featured in a campaign for a new NFL-branded Greek yogurt targeting men.

The yogurt is called Oikos Triple Zero, a reference to the protein-packed product having "zero added sugar, zero artificial sweeteners and zero fat," according to Dannon. Mr. Stamos starred in ads for the regular Oikos brand in recent years. He appeared in Super Bowl ads in 2012 and 2014, when he was joined by other former "Full House" stars Bob Saget and Dave Coulier.

"We have ended our relationship with John Stamos. We had a great run with him," said Art D'Elia, Dannon's VP-marketing overseeing Oikos. But he added that "we wanted a spokesperson and an advertising model that could help us appeal more to males and that's why we made the decision … to move away from John."

The new TV ad starring Mr. Newton is by Y&R, Barcelona and will break on Jan. 5 on NFL Network. Ads will also run during the NFC and AFC championship games later in the month. But Dannon does not plan to return to the Super Bowl, Mr. D'Elia said. One reason is that the marketer did not want to wait until February to start advertising the new product. "Retailers are really looking for performance in the first eight to 12 weeks. So it's important to get out of the gate strong with media to drive awareness and trial," he said.

Yogurt marketers are searching for new growth opportunities for Greek as the category begins to mature after several years of sizzling sales. "This is a category that historically has really been marketed primarily to females," Mr. D'Elia said. As a result, male buyers account for only 37% of total Greek yogurt sales, he said. "The NFL is the largest platform that we could attach ourselves to go and broaden [the] appeal to males," he said. Mr. Newton, who guided his team to a playoff berth this season, is an "aspirational" figure, especially for young males, Mr. D'Elia said.

The strategy began earlier this year when Dannon inked a deal to become the NFL's official yogurt sponsor beginning in 2015. The pact allows for the use of the NFL shield, which is prominently displayed on Oikos Triple Zero. The yogurt will be stocked at the dining facilities of every NFL team.

Dannon will still sell regular Oikos, but Triple Zero will be the focus of the marketer's advertising in the first quarter. According to Dannon, the launch will be supported with a "multi-million dollar media investment" that includes buys on media properties with significant male reach, such as cable networks Spike and ESPN, Men's Health magazine and digital takeovers on NFL.com.

In addition to targeting men, Triple Zero seeks to seize on the growing demand for protein-rich foods. The yogurt contains 15 grams of protein per 5.3-ounce serving, which Dannon says is 25% more than regular Oikos.

Dannon is not the first yogurt brand to target males. A smaller yogurt brand called Powerful began targeting men in 2013 with a tagline that compelled consumers to "find your inner abs."

The musclebound marketing prompted Grubstreet.com to refer to the product as "brogurt."

Dannon's Mr. D'Elia described Powerful as "very narrowly targeted at a small sub-segment of men. We wanted to take a less polarizing approach with a more mainstream offering." Powerful did not respond to emails for a response. The latest version of Powerful's website and Facebook page includes images of men and women engaging in various athletic pursuits, while the yogurt is touted as "designed for the active lifestyle."

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