Pop-Tarts and Duke’s mayo dominate college bowl season

Pop-Tarts and Duke's mayo dominate college bowl season

After winning the Pop-Tarts Bowl in Orlando, Florida, on December 28, the Kansas State football team gathered on the field around a garage-sized toaster, guarded by a pair of mall police wearing “Snack Security” shirts Was.

An unusual chant went up – “Toast that mascot!” Toast that mascot!” – As a strawberry, A giant Pop-Tart with limbsClimbed on top of the toaster, belting out the disco-era tune of “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer.

“We will always love you, Strawberry,” announcer Jason Ryan Perry said over the stadium’s public address system. “Can’t wait to eat you.”

For nearly three hours, Strawberry worked over the crowd as one of the surprise stars of the game and of the entire College Bowl season, which is no small feat for an anthropomorphic breakfast pastry. By the time the strawberry tossed aside a sign that read “Dreams Really Do Come True” so it could happily slide through a slot and fry its crust to golden-brown perfection, Internet critters would be Was going to.

Sure enough, the strawberries soon came out of the toaster. an edible version of yourself, The victorious players pounced, eating strawberries by the handful until all that was left – RIP, strawberries – was his left eye.

“I think those people were really hungry,” Heidi Ray, senior director of brand marketing for Pop-Tarts, said in a telephone interview.

In a crowded marketplace, Pop-Tarts Bowl — previously renamed this year after Cheez-It Bowl, Camping World Bowl, and several other names — managed to do something special: turn an otherwise ordinary game into a viral sensation. Gave.

Michigan and Washington will face off in the College Football Playoff national championship game on Monday night, but in an era when there are more than 40 bowl games in a season, only two of them – the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl, serve as national We do. Championship Semifinals – Regardless of any significance, the Pop-Tarts Bowl won the Internet.

Or, at least, it shared the Internet championship with Duke’s Mayo Bowl.

From a competitive perspective, the playoff system, which began in 2014 and will Add quarterfinal games next year, have turned other bowls into artifacts of a bygone era when they meant more to teams – and to their conferences – than they do now. As a result, many prominent players with NFL aspirations opt out of games if there is nothing at stake.

None of this has slowed a steady drumbeat in favor of more bowl games, which generate good ratings and advertising revenue around the holidays.

With so many meaningless bowls – the Guaranteed Rate Bowl and the Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl, the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl and the Avocado of Mexico Cure Bowl – the most intense competition isn’t necessarily between the teams on the field, but between the brands that exist. . Hoping for a fleeting (and profitable) moment of virility.

“I think doing it in unique, fun ways is an important way to keep the bowl relevant,” said Miller Yoho, director of marketing and communications for the Charlotte Sports Foundation, which hosts Duke’s Mayo Bowl. “Honestly, it’s the most I’ve talked about in 10 years.”

When Duke Mayo, a seasoning company based in Richmond, Washington, began sponsoring the game in 2020 – it had previously been sponsored by Meineke Car Care Center, among others – the feeling was that the company had “something to build on.” “Mayonnaise has become cool again,” said Joe Tuza, president of condiments for Sawyer Brands, which owns Duke Mayo. In partnership with college football, the brand has tried to cash in on its share of made-for-the-Internet moments, both planned and unplanned.

Since 2021, the game’s winners have been drenched in a cooler full of mayonnaise in the form of a Coach Brand tubby mascot with aggressive eyebrows, triumphantly raises his arms and Mr. Tuza stands nearby with a cartoon-shaped check. The incentive for the coach is that $10,000 goes to the charity of his choice.

“Every time I’m on the stage with the trophies, the players start yelling, ‘Mayo dump!’ Mayo dump!” Mr Tuza said. “It’s like a reward for them to see their coach get ruined after all their hard work.”

And while various skeptics, including the Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce, a well-known mayonnaise hater, have raised questions is it really mayonnaiseBoth Mr. Tuza and Mr. Yoho confirmed its authenticity.

“It’s 100 percent mayonnaise,” Mr. Yoho said. “I smelled it. They have to stir it to get the viscosity right.

Before this season’s game on December 27, Duke’s Mayo added excitement by holding a draft-style combine to select two people who would pour mayonnaise on the winning coach. (This was the long-term result of the 2021 game, when South Carolina coach Shane Beamer accidentally hit my head by cooler; Duke’s Mayo Later sent him a hard hat.) Mr. Yoho said he watched the combine via live feed.

“I’ve seen guys wearing mayos trying to catch a football,” he said. “I’m like, ‘What’s happening?'”

The extra effort paid off. Duke’s Mayo had a record day of online sales during this year’s game, Mr. Tuza said, and the company expects to generate about $10 million worth of brand exposure, more than doubling its investment.

“Based on the size of our business, this is a big investment for us,” Mr Tuza said, “so we really need to make it work. “We had to execute and not just slap our name on the sponsorship.”

Amidst a chaotic bowl game scenario, complacency will leave you behind. Bowl season never rests, not completely. For example, one attraction at the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl was a branded hot tub – “Feelin’ the Cheesiest” – i.e. Now available for purchase on eBay, with proceeds going toward the Florida Citrus Sports Foundation. (Condition: Used.)

And the day after Duke’s Mayo Bowl, Mr. Yoho was part of a text series with colleagues who were already looking forward to the 2024 edition of the game. The gist of those messages?

“Well, we just watched the Pop-Tarts Bowl, and it’s game on,” Mr. Yoho recalled.

The Pop-Tarts phenomenon was a sight to behold, thanks to the exploits of Strawberry, played by former Chicago Bulls mascot Barry Anderson. In his first and only public appearance, Strawberry danced with fans, delivered mini-sized versions of himself and welcomed his demise. (Thanks to the magic of television, Mr. Anderson didn’t actually toast himself.)

“It far exceeds any of our expectations,” Ms. Ray said. He added, “We didn’t have to pretend anything. That’s totally brand. That’s how we behave socially every day of the year. We just brought a little bit of that world into the world of college football.”

Ms. Ray said that while the strawberry is now the highest-profile individual Pop-Tart in the brand’s 60-year history, Banananova produces about three billion treats annually. In other words, the strawberries were not a one-off. There is more talent in the pipeline.

“Everyone saw the feral cats eat the strawberries, and he’s happily in heaven because his dreams came true,” Ms Ray said. “But don’t fear: This isn’t the last time you’ll see an edible Pop-Tart as a mascot.”

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