Super Bowl

Butterfinger Plans to Take on Reese's With Super Bowl Ad

Peanut Butter Line Extension Coming in 2014

By Published on .

Doh! Reese's is about to get some sticky new competition from Bart Simpson-backed Butterfinger. The Nestle brand has bought a Super Bowl spot plugging a new peanut butter cup version of the classic candy bar that will launch in January.

Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups
Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups

Bart will not appear in the Super Bowl spot, said Butterfinger Brand Manager Jeremy Vandervoet. He was considered, but the brand "wanted to do something much more broad than going back to the Simpsons, which are a little old," he said. The 30-second ad, which will run in the second half, is still under development, but it will keep the brand's "clever, irreverent personality," he said.

The line extension marks a new phase in the candy-bar wars on a couple of fronts: For one, Butterfinger is aiming squarely at Hershey Co.'s Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, the top-selling chocolate confectionary brand in the U.S. with a projected 11.5% share and more than $2 billion in sales for 2013, according to Euromonitor International. And with the Super Bowl spot, Butterfinger will bump heads with Mars, which in recent years has been the only candy marketer advertising in the game. This year Mars' spot will feature either M&Ms or Snickers.

Nestle USA has never purchased a Super Bowl ad before, and in recent years has spent minimally on the Butterfinger brand, which got about $9 million in measured-media support last year, compared with $82.2 million for Reese's, according to Kantar Media. But the spending gap could soon begin to close. Nestle says the new Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups, which will hit stores in January, are the biggest product launch in history of the candy bar, which was created in 1923 and bought by Nestle in 1990. The campaign will more than double last year's spending and also include ads in the Major League Baseball's All Star Game and the Daytona 500, Mr. Vandervoet said.

The agency is Interpublic Group of Cos.' Dailey of West Hollywood, Calif.

Butterfinger reunited with Bart Simpson earlier this year, who had been the cartoon-face of the brand from 1988 to 2001, but the partnership is set to expire at the end of this year.

Butterfinger is positioning the line extension as taking the "classic peanut butter and chocolate combination to a whole new level." The cups will be filled with smooth peanut butter and include tiny bits of Butterfinger's familiar formula of a sugary molasses mixed with peanut butter and a mysterious flakey orange curst. The cups will also have a square shape, as opposed to Reese's circular mold.

Butterfinger has a long way to go to catch up. The brand has only 1.9% share of the chocolate confectionery category, where it has been stuck in 13th-place. M&Ms is No. 2. Snickers, which is ranked No. 3, came out with its own peanut-butter play in 2011 called Snickers Peanut Butter Squared, two square-shape bars that add peanut butter to the familiar mix of peanuts, caramel, nougat and milk chocolate.

Do the Butterfinger cups stand a chance? "Consumers will try it," said Matt Hudak, who covers candy for Euromonitor. But for buyers to switch permanently, Butterfinger "has to taste pretty much amazing because Reese's Peanut Butter cup is the peanut butter cup," he said. Hershey, he added, "doesn't lose focus" on Reese's "so jumping into that [segment] is always going to be a bit of battle."

Hershey said it has no plans get into the Super Bowl, according to a spokeswoman. Mars declined to comment.

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