Oreo Enlists Celebs to Demonstrate the Perfect Dunk in Latest Global Push

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Shaquille O'Neal gets his dunk on.
Shaquille O'Neal gets his dunk on. Credit: Mondelēz International

Oreo is focusing on a trio of celebrities and new technology to drum up excitement for the ritual of dunking the world's best-selling cookie as the original variety has lost some of its star power.

The campaign begins Wednesday with Shaquille O'Neal set to complete what is being touted as the first-ever hands-free dunk of an Oreo. Singer Christina Aguilera and Brazilian soccer star Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, known to millions as Neymar, round out the campaign. The stars appear in 15-second commercials seemingly doing very unique dunks and prompting fans to do their own in a sweepstakes.

"It's really a celebration of Oreo's signature dunking ritual with milk," said Patty Gonzalez, director of Oreo equity for North America. "This is really us taking that beloved ritual that's really become a part of the Oreo DNA and celebrating it, and also presenting new and innovative, playful ways to participate in it."

Christina Aguilera has a knack for dunking.
Christina Aguilera has a knack for dunking. Credit: Mondelēz International

The push comes after a somewhat tough year for the cookie, which turns 105 years old in March. Oreo continues to be the top-selling cookie both in the United States and globally, with worldwide sales of nearly $2.9 billion in 2015.

However, U.S. dollar sales of the main Oreo line declined 8.9% to nearly $710.6 million in the 52 weeks ended Jan. 22, while sales of the thicker Double Stuf variety fell nearly 4.9% to $268.2 million, according to data from Chicago-based market research firm IRI. Still, there is some strong growth: the newer Oreo Thins line soared nearly 131% to $125.2 million, IRI data show.

The focus on the art of the dunk comes after a 2016 global campaign, "Open Up with Oreo," which had a togetherness message. In North America, the scale of the dunk campaign is larger than it was for "Open Up," Ms. Gonzalez said. U.S. measured media spending on Oreo was $41.5 million from January through November 2016, up from $27.4 million for all of 2015, according to Kantar Media.

The global effort begins in the United States and is set to hit more than 50 markets in the first half of 2017, with variations depending on what each market chooses to do.

"The question we asked ourselves is how do we really bring the dunk into culture? How do we make it accessible everywhere?" Ms. Gonzalez said of the push in North America.

The sweepstakes, in which people submit dunk photos or videos with #oreodunksweepstakes on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, includes chances to meet Mr. O'Neal in New York or Ms. Aguilera in Los Angeles. Even without prizes, Oreo sees fans celebrating the dunking ritual on social media, posting images of their own dunks. "More consumers than you would think know it and do it," Ms. Gonzalez said. And, of course, Oreo itself played up the dunking ritual to much acclaim during the blackout at the Super Bowl in 2013.

TV commercials take dunking to extreme art forms. Mr. O'Neal (above) appears to be acrobatically twirling down silk ropes, while Ms. Aguilera (below) is seemingly riding a bicycle on a tightrope before her dunk.

Neymar's dunk (below) sticks with the circus theme and involves a high-altitude trampoline experience.

The campaign includes some new plans for Oreo. Wednesday's event at New York's Chelsea Market, the site of the original Nabisco bakery where Oreos were first made, includes using "brain computer interface technology that essentially tracks levels of concentration," Ms. Gonzalez said. Those who reach a certain concentration threshold will be able to move an Oreo, without touching it, toward a glass of milk. People can try to challenge Mr. O'Neal, the retired NBA star, in an Oreo dunking contest.

On Feb. 12, Oreo will have its first-ever Snapchat lens, which includes a cookie diving. Oreo has planned a collaboration with Google for a global digital mobile dunking experience later in February that Ms. Gonzalez was hesitant to discuss in detail. The Oreo dunk message will also be promoted by digital influencers and media brands, including appearances on ABC shows including "Live with Kelly" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live," and deals with BuzzFeed, Dude Perfect, Funny or Die and iHeart Radio. In-store plans include games and cookie and milk dunking activities, and graphics on Oreo packaging.

The Martin Agency, 360i, Carat and Weber Shandwick are working with Oreo on the campaign.

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