A college football marketing audible made last spring continues to pay off handsomely for snack food giant Kellanova.
After the Dec. 28 Pop-Tarts Bowl became a viral sensation, breaking through the noise of college football’s postseason and generating $12.1 million in immediate brand value for Pop-Tarts, sister brand Cheez-It topped that figure with the Jan. 1 Citrus Bowl.
Cheez-It generated between $13 million and $14.5 million in immediate brand value from its bowl game, according to Apex Marketing Group. Kellanova owns both Cheez-It and Pop-Tarts, and made the decision last May to have Pop-Tarts take on title sponsorship of the Dec. 28 bowl game held by Cheez-It for three years.
“This is a big win for Cheez-It and Kellanova. Had Cheez-It stayed where they were, they almost certainly would have generated a smaller number than what Pop-Tarts did,” Eric Smallwood, Apex Marketing president and CEO, tells Front Office Sports. “A lot of what Cheez-It did also wasn’t on the basis of social and digital media exposure, but instead from TV and the prominence of being on New Year’s Day.”
This twin bill of Pop-Tarts and Cheez-It was not in the original plan for Kellanova. After vacation rental company Vrbo shifted its college football bowl game title sponsorship from the Citrus Bowl to the Fiesta Bowl in 2022, Cheez-It took on the Citrus Bowl rights, and then went through last year’s college football postseason sponsoring two Orlando-based bowl games in what it initially touted as “doubling up on the absurdly cheesy college football action.”
But months later, Kellanova shifted to include Pop-Tarts in its college football plans and set the path to create what was billed as the first-ever edible mascot in sports. The Cheez-It mascot in the Citrus Bowl then trolled its corporate counterpart, holding up a sign reading “Non-Edible Mascot.”
In essence, Kellanova got to have its cake and eat it, too—even though the company doesn’t own a cake brand.