Social media propels showbiz branding in supermarkets

Social media may be shortening consumers’ attention spans, but it’s also starting to benefit the entertainment biz, as food marketers speed the process of how they tie their products on supermarket shelves to a celebrity, TV show or movie.

Deals that once took a year or more to come to fruition (like last summer’s “Captain America” star-shaped donuts for Dunkin’ Donuts or Baskin-Robbins flavors for the superhero) are now being developed within months, as illustrated by deals inspired by a WWE wrestling put-down, a rocker’s tweet and the sweet success of New York Knicks star Jeremy Lin.

After Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson spent weeks calling WWE’s John Cena “Fruity Pebbles” during a verbal sparring match in and out of the ring as part of a year-long promo for next month’s WrestleMania 28, what started out as an insult on Cena’s brightly colored orange, purple and red T-shirts quickly became a marketing opportunity for Post Foods after the term caught on with audiences and turned into a chant at live events, on TV and on countless Twitter and Facebook feeds.

In January, Post put Cena on 3 million Fruity Pebbles cereal boxes, which are already in stores and available through April. The deal also backs the Make-a-Wish Foundation (a charity Cena has long supported), as well as WWE’s Be a Star anti-bullying effort, in association with the Creative Coalition, and awarded a meet-and-greet with Cena, as part of a contest.

Post received additional airtime, as a result, with Cena eating bowls of Fruity Pebbles on WWE shows before entering the ring.

Kellogg’s took things a step further last month at the behest of Brit rocker Tim Burgess.

A random U.K. Twitter post by Burgess to 20,000 fans resulted in Kellogg’s developing Totes Amazeballs, a cereal based on the tastes of the Charlatans frontman, who tweeted he likes Coco Krispies, shortbread, raisins and marshmallows. He was approached by the company an hour after the tweet was sent.

Kellogg’s produced a limited batch of the cereal, replete with a custom animated box cover, and presented it to Burgess. The company is now considering a larger run after fans inundated Kellogg’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, demanding the cereal that Burgess calls “the Jazz Odyssey of breakfasts.”

Burgess “had been talking about wanting to create his own cereal,” says a Kellogg’s spokeswoman, and the company wanted to make his breakfast dreams come true — along with generating a ton of publicity, for the company, which has also created personalized cereals for DJ Calvin Harris (Calvin Flakes) and versions based on England’s 2010 World Cup soccer teammates.

But it’s Ben & Jerry’s that paved the way for channeling pop culture.

The Vermont-based ice cream maker was quick to churn out flavors for Jimmy Fallon (Late Night Snack), Stephen Colbert (Americone Dream), “Saturday Night Live” (Schweddy Balls), Jerry Garcia (Cherry Garcia), Phish (Phish Food), Elton John (Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road), Willie Nelson (Country Peach Cobbler) and John Lennon (Imagine Whirled Peace).

The company has also capitalized on Lin’s notoriety, creating Lin-Sanity, a flavor that features vanilla frozen yogurt and lychee honey swirls, and comes with a fresh waffle cone on the side. Lin is the second athlete for whom Ben & Jerry’s has created a flavor, after Olympic snowboarder Hannah Teter, who was celebrated with Maple Blondie.

No word yet on whether Ben & Jerry’s muse can be stirred by wrestlers.

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