Throughout the 1930s, Wheaties increased in popularity with its sponsorship of baseball broadcasting, and by the end of the decade nearly a hundred radio stations carried Wheaties sponsored events. During these events, athlete testimonials about Wheaties were used to demonstrate that Wheaties was indeed the breakfast of champions. Also in the early 1930s, athletes began to be depicted on the packaging of Wheaties, and the tradition is continued today. See List of athletes on Wheaties boxes.
The heyday of Wheaties came in the 1930s and early 1940s, as testimonials peaked from nearly every sport imaginable. Among the many testimonials were included: baseball stars, managers, and trainers; broadcasters; football stars and coaches; circus stars and rodeo; livestock breeders; a railroad engineer; horsemen and jockeys; a big-game hunter; automobile racers; an aviator; a speedboat driver; an explorer; and parachutists.
Wheaties maintained brand recognition through its definitive association with sports, and its distinctive orange boxes. It became so popular that in the 1939 All-Star Game, 46 of the 51 players endorsed the cereal. In the months following, Wheaties became a sponsor of the first televised commercial sports broadcast. On August 29, 1939, NBC presented the baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers to approximately 500 television set owners in New York City, while Red Barber was the inaugural play-by-play broadcaster.
A measure of the product's familiarity is the reference 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 D. gets a clutch base hit, and the band awards him "a case of Wheaties".
Wheaties radio broadcasting in the 1930s touched the early career of Ronald Reagan, who was at the time a sports broadcast announcer in Des Moines, Iowa. He was asked to create play-by-play recreations of Chicago Cubs baseball games using transcripted telegraph reports; his job performance in this role led to his selection in 1937 as the most popular Wheaties announcer in the nation. He was awarded an all-expenses paid trip to the Cubs' spring training camp in California, and while there he took a Warner Brothers screen test. This led to his eventual film career, thus the Wheaties claim of perhaps leading Reagan into show business, and later politics as governor and 40th president of the United States.
In the early 1950s, costs and strategy forced General Mills to redirect the Wheaties brand into a focus on children, alongside such noted brands as Cheerios, which had great success in this market. While initially seen as a growth measure, sales of Wheaties declined dramatically even after association with The Lone Ranger and The Mickey Mouse Club, mainly due to the adult cereal consumers dislike of a "children's cereal". More children did in fact eat Wheaties due to this association, but the gain was not enough to increase sales, much less stave off the decline of adult consumption.
Because of the great decline in sales in the middle part of the 1950s, by 1958 General Mills was convinced that the sporting roots of Wheaties were its strongest selling point. In that year, the marketing strategy employed a three-pronged assault. First was the selection of the brand's first spokesman, Bob Richards, two-time Olympic pole vault champion (see Spokespersons for Wheaties). Second, Wheaties reentered the sports television sponsorship arena, while pioneering the concepts of the pre and post-game show, and third was the introduction of the Wheaties Sports Federation. The Wheaties Sports Federation promoted physical fitness, training, and participation in athletic events, through direct financial support of Olympic educational programs and the Jaycee Junior Champ track and field competition, and also through educational and instructional athletic films.
From the 1960s through the 1990s, Wheaties provided in-box promotions, but maintained a focus on athletic fitness and on-the-box sports figure promotions. Since the debut of the front cover depiction of Bob Richards, hundreds of athletes have been shown and promoted, including entire baseball, basketball, and football teams, while also highlighting Olympic successes (including regional Special Olympics editions). Wheaties also does not limit itself to current athletic stars, as special edition boxes have depicted baseball players from the early 20th century, and many athletes who were too early for Wheaties to cover (see Jim Thorpe).
In the script of Paul Auster and Wayne Wang's film: Blue in the Face, Bob (played by Jim Jarmusch) discusses giving up smoking with Auggie. He remarks: "..Coffee and cigarettes, you know? That's like "breakfast of champions." (Paul Auster: Smoke and Blue in the Face, Faber and Faber 1995, page 230, lines 9-10)
Wheaties adds Fuel to the fire of cereal competition Wheaties adds Fuel to the fire of cereal competition; "Son of Wheaties" has brooding look and a new taste with men in mind.(BUSINESS)
Mar 21, 2010; Byline: DAVID PHELPS; STAFF WRITER The assignment from General Mills was both simple and daunting: Create a new look for a new...