By Published on .

As a marathon runner, Brian Maxwell was familiar with the perils of losing energy, especially with the pounding feet of other runners fast approaching.

That drive to maintain vitality in competition led him to develop PowerBar in 1986. It was that same runner's intensity that led him to pick up speed for the brand last year as a pack of competitors challenged Power Bar in the category he created.

"From 1996 through 1998, just as we began to approach the $100 million mark in sales, we were losing market share fairly steadily to a point where our position as leader was in question," says Mr. Maxwell, who held the position of president-CEO until Nestle USA acquired PowerBar this year.

Mr. Maxwell, along with former VP-Marketing Mary Seggerman and Director of Advertising Gabe Griego, turned that decline around by diversifying the product line. He then launched the brand's largest-ever ad campaign.

The "Don't bonk" ad campaign, a $12 million effort from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., appeared mainly during TV sports fare. It featured situations where people would run out of energy, or "bonk" as runners would say, with humorous results. PowerBar also signed sponsorship deals with Nascar driver Dale Jarrett and National Basketball Association star Jason Kidd.

"As soon as the campaign started running, we turned around from losing half a share point a month to gaining a share point a month," says Mr. Maxwell. Most recent four-week data shows the brand was up 31% compared with the same '99 period, he says, and Nestle's $375 million acquisition of the leading energy bar brand confirms its high performance.

Most Popular
In this article: