The Breakfast of Champions!

by buildingpharmabrands


An accidental spill of a wheat bran mixture onto a hot stove by a Minnesota clinician working for the Washburn Crosby Company (later General Mills) created in 1922 the world’s favorite breakfast cereal food, Wheaties. It took over two years and thirty-six attempts to strengthen the flakes to withstand packaging. George Cormack, the Washburn head miller, perfected the process for creating the wheat flakes. Initially the cereal was named Washburn’s Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes. Soon after, the company changed the name to a more crispier Wheaties.

Wheaties began its advertising journey with a radio commercial on Minneapolis’ WCCO radio station on December 24, 1926, making advertising history with the first-ever commercial jingle on radio. Its lyrics were sung to the tune of the then-popular song, She’s a Jazz Baby:

Have you tried Wheaties?

They’re whole wheat with all of the bran.

Won’t you try Wheaties?

For Wheat is the best food of man.

In 1927, Wheaties began its association with sports advertising. Knox Reeves, a Minneapolis advertising agency executive, when asked what should be place on the sign for Wheaties, he sketched a Wheaties Box on a paper pad, thought for a moment and wrote, Wheaties – The Breakfast of Champions and created one of the world’s most memorable tag lines.

The definitive association of Wheaties with sports maintained its brand recognition as well franchise consistently for over eighty-seven years now. In the 1939 All Star Game, 46 of the 51 players endorsed Wheaties! Furthermore, in the 1941 baseball song Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, performed by Les Brown and his Orchestra during DiMaggio’s record hitting streak. In the song, Joe DiMaggio gets a clutch base hit, and the band awards him a case of Wheaties.

Ronald Reagan, the former US President was also associated with Wheaties and was selected as the most popular Wheaties announcer in the nation in 1937, when he was a sports broadcast announcer in Des Monies, Iowa.

General Mills in the early 1950s tried to reposition the Wheaties brand for children, along side with its highly successful brands such as Cheerios. Wheaties despite its initial penetration into children’s segment was losing sales rapidly. They realized before it was too late that its adult consumers did not like to use a children’s cereal. While more children took to Wheaties, the gain was not adequate to offset the decline in its adult segment, which was its forte at one time.

Realizing its marketing blunder, Wheaties took to its original sporting roots, which established it first. In 1958, as a three-pronged strategic correction selected the brand’s first spokesman, Bob richards, two-time Olympic pole vault champion. Second, Wheaties reentered the sports television sponsorship arena and pioneered the concepts of the pre and post-game show. Third was perhaps the most important initiative of starting the Wheaties Sports Federation to promote physical fitness, training, and participation in athletic events through direct financial support of Olympic educational programs and instructional athletic films.

Once again Wheaties continued its relentless focus on sports through its inbox promotion while renewing its focus on athletic focus and on-the-box-spots figure promotions. Hundreds of athletes across diverse sports have been shown and promoted on and in Wheaties boxes and advertisements.

For almost ninety years now, Wheaties has been making pioneering efforts in brand-building advertising. It has a number of firsts to its credit right from the radio jingle, to television commercials to placing the celebrity athletes on the box and in the box and even in creating a sports federation. The list of sports personalities that appeared in Wheaties ads, boxes, and those who endorsed reads more like the who-is-who of the athletic world. Its advertising slogan, The Breakfast of Champions is what the brand stands for. It has been standing for it for over eighty-six years in a row.

Here is an ad that captures the true spirit of Wheaties advertising philosophy:


Can you draw inspiration from the pioneering spirit of Wheaties advertising and think of creating memorable communication strategies that move your target customers to choose your products? Can you think of a multi-pronged approach towards moving the physicians to choose your product and build patient communities and engage them meaningfully with the help of  your physicians?