"We've just been talking with kids. They wanted more variety,"
said Sharon Pupel, a Post marketing director. "Fred isn't
necessarily the … coolest or [most] relevant guy for kids
who we are going after."
John Cena, though, apparently is . The WWE first entered into a
deal with Post last year after Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson began
teasing Mr. Cena for his brightly colored ring-gear, saying he
looked like a "big, fat bowl of Fruity Pebbles." WWE executives say
the plot twist was not an overt attempt to lure a new sponsor. But
the WWE reached out to Post after it caught on with fans, who began
chanting "Fruity Pebbles" in arenas.
Mr. Cena was featured last year on 3 million boxes of Fruity
Pebbles, but he was relegated to the top of the box, while Fred
still appeared front and center. Now, Mr. Cena has prominent
placement on the front and center of boxes, a rare feat for a
non-Flintstones character. Other promotions are planned, including
a sweepstakes, as well as a likely return of Mr. Cena to the front
of boxes in the back-to-school period.
For the WWE, the deal marks its most-significant partnership
with a mainstream, family food brand since the organization began
seeking such deals in the wake of toning down its act in 2008 to
achieve a PG rating for the "Monday Night Raw" program. "It doesn't
happen overnight," said Andrew Judelson, WWE's exec VP-sales and
sponsorship. "Just because we say we've moved to PG doesn't mean
corporate America immediately is going to respond," he added. "It
takes consistency, it takes time and I think what's happening now
... is there is a tipping point." Other recent deals include a
promotion with Colgate-Palmolive's
Irish Spring soap. Mr. Judelson signaled that other similar deals
are in the works.
But the show, which once matched up scantily clad divas in
thongs and routinely included sexual references, has hit a few
bumps on the road to family-friendly viewing. In 2011, gay-advocacy
groups criticized how Mr. Cena responded to the Rock when he began
using the Fruity Pebbles line. As reported by gay and lesbian
magazine Metro Weekly, Mr. Cena went on a rapping tirade that
included a couple of anti-gay slurs, including a demeaning
reference to "Brokeback Mountain." The WWE apologized and struck up
a partnership with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
that included sensitivity training. "We know that we have a gay
fan-base, [so] we welcomed that opportunity," said a WWE
As for the "Fruity Pebbles" moniker itself, the WWE says that
merely refers to Mr. Cena's colorful gear, and nothing else.