May 19, 2024

Advertising: A Minty Chewing Gum Is Named for a Snowboarder

Whitemint, a new flavor of chewing gum by Stride, the Kraft Foods brand, is named for the athlete and features his likeness on the package. White, who appeared briefly in a commercial for a Stride line called 2.0 that was first shown in June, stars in a new commercial for Whitemint scheduled to begin on Monday.

Other celebrities have appeared in advertisements for gum in recent years, including sisters Serena and Venus Williams for Doublemint (a Wm. Wrigley Jr. brand), and Marlon Wayans for Dentyne (a Kraft brand). But gum varieties being named for celebrities is a rarity, with one notable instance being a Bubblicious flavor named for LeBron James, LeBron’s Lightning Lemonade, introduced in 2005 and discontinued in 2007.


Gum marketing usually focuses on claims like freshening breath or whitening teeth.

“What the category has been to date has really been about the promotion of functional benefits and attributes of the product,” said Maurice Herrera, senior director of United States gum brands for Kraft.

While celebrity-licensing deals are more common in “lifestyle-oriented categories,” in the case of White and Stride, some consumers may derive “emotional benefits” from chewing gum affiliated with the popular athlete, Mr. Herrera said.

“We as a portfolio are looking at how we can establish a greater level of relevance and make our brands more relatable,” Mr. Herrera said.

While the brand is generally aimed at consumers ages 18 to 34, Whitemint aspires to appeal to the younger end of that spectrum, from 18 to 24 — and may appeal to even younger chewers.

“A lot of 10- to 12-year-olds hold Shaun in high esteem,” Mr. Herrera said.

Bloomberg Businessweek ranked White, 25, who also competes professionally as a skateboarder, the second most powerful athlete of 2011, with quarterback Peyton Manning in the top spot. White “combines dominance on the slopes with a friendly face and personality,” said Businessweek. “All this adds up to instant marketability.”

White currently licenses a clothing line for Target, a sunglasses and goggles line for Oakley, a gear line for Burton Snowboards, and two video games — Shaun White Snowboarding and Shaun White Skateboarding — for Ubisoft.

Doug Shabelman, president of Burns Entertainment, a celebrity and entertainment marketing firm, said White has managed to be a pitchman without sullying himself.

“He has remained really true to his persona and has maintained a level of hipness and youthfulness,” Mr. Shabelman said. “He’s still relevant and is not seen as someone who has made it and sold out.”

While the brand did not disclose any financial details, White is estimated to earn at least $2 million annually for each endorsement deal. Stride spent $30.4 million on advertising in 2010, according to Kantar Media, a division of WPP.

The brand could certainly use the surge it is hoping White will bring. Sales for Stride dropped 27.2 percent, to $151.5 million, in the 52 weeks that ended Aug. 7, according to the SymphonyIRI Group, whose totals do not include Wal-Mart. Over the period, the brand’s share of the sugarless gum category dropped 2.4 percent, to a 6.7 percent share.


Asked what they find lacking in gum, the top response from consumers is that the flavor should be longer lasting, with 57 percent saying so, far more than wish for better tasting flavors (11 percent), stronger flavor (9 percent), or a wider range of flavors (8 percent), according to Mintel, a market research firm.

Since its introduction in 2006, Stride has marketed itself as “the ridiculously long lasting gum.” Advertising campaigns from JWT, New York, part of WPP, have featured a team of misguided Stride marketers who, frustrated that they cannot sell more gum because each piece lasts so long, track down consumers and physically force them to spit out their gum.

In a 2008 commercial, for example, a chewer crossing the street while talking on his cellphone is suddenly butted by a ram and coughs up his gum, whereupon a Stride van screeches to a halt and marketers dash out to retrieve the wad.

The ram has since become a brand mascot, sometimes appearing only in a cameo role. In the new commercial for Whitemint, for example, the ram stands idly in a conference room where the marketing team and White are gathered.

“New Stride Whitemint is a hit, but it lasts too long,” says a manager leading the meeting, as he chews it himself. “How do we get people to chew another piece?”

“I got this one,” says White, gesturing for an abominable snowman wearing a headband and earphones to enter the room. The creature slugs the manager in the stomach, forcing him to spit out his gum, and a voiceover warns, “Spit it out. Or Yeti will find you.”

Poking fun at marketers appeals to younger consumers, said Matt McKay, a creative director at JWT.

“The younger audience that we’re talking too is very savvy about marketing” and the overall advertising approach, Mr. McKay said of the commercial featuring White. “It gives a nod to the consumer who knows what marketing is and the tactics that marketers and ad agencies go through, and who is not easily fooled by marketing.”

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