Airheads gets first national push

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Van Melle USA hopes to continue the speedy growth of its Airheads chewy taffy brand with the April launch of a national tie-in promotion with Mattel.

Van Melle is embarking on its first national effort with a sweepstakes offer for a trip to visit the popular toymaker and on-package coupons for savings on Mattel's newest Hot Wheels introduction. Airheads has been a national sponsor of American Youth Soccer Organization for four years.

"The promotion shows that Airheads is in touch with what makes kids tick and what they do for fun and enjoyment," said Amy Bortner, VP at promotion agency Botsford Group, Atlanta, which developed the program. "The brand has come a long way, but we want to take it to the next level."

The effort to gain trial and awareness for Airheads comes just as Hershey Foods Corp. is set to launch Jolly Rancher Chewmongus, its own entry into the fast-growing fruity chewy segment. The extension of Jolly Rancher into the new segment is intended specifically to draw kids ages 6 to 12 away from Airheads, the No. 3 non-chocolate candy in the U.S. and the fastest growing brand in the segment.

Airheads reached sales of $60 million for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 30, according to Information Resources Inc. Airheads sales rose more than 100% in 1999.


To support its link with Mattel, which runs through December, Van Melle will add a 10-second tag to its existing "Airheads: Out of Control" campaign, from Avrett, Free & Ginsberg, New York. The spots, running on kids TV networks such as Nickelodeon and Fox Kids, will tout an on-package sweepstakes to win a trip for four to California to visit Mattel's headquarters and Disneyland. The spots also will promote coupons offered on packs of multiple Airheads bars for $1 off on purchases of Mattel's new X-V Xtreme Skateboarders, a motorized skateboarder version of its Hot Wheels brand.

Mattel will support the X-V Xtreme Skateboarders, its first nod to the extreme sport, with advertising from FCB Southern California, Costa Mesa, that begins later this month. The ads feature world-champion skateboarder Tony Hawk.

Van Melle also will feature the promotion on its soon-to-be revamped Airheads Web site ( and on point-of-purchase materials.

Van Melle spent $2.5 million in measured media to support Airheads in the first 10 months of 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Contributing: Laura Petrecca.

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