Blog: Dean BestMars Cash-es in on sporting fever

Dean Best | 7 April 2009

It isn't everyday that you get the chance to play tennis with a former Wimbledon champ.

But yesterday (6 April) just-food did exactly that when your reporter hit some balls around with Pat Cash, one of Mars' "sports ambassadors".

Aside from getting some handy hints on how to improve my backhand (my grip is way off - just like the rest of my game!) I also got a sneak preview of Mars' latest marketing push, set to kick-off next month.

All in all, it seems a pretty nifty campaign that will encompass TV, print and online marketing as well as tie-ups with media partners The Sun and Talksport radio.
By linking itself to something as emotional as sport, Mars seems to have hit quite a sweet spot. Last year, Mars' football-related campaign resulted in a 12% sales uplift. So this year, now that the brand is linked to four sports, it is likely that the campaign will help Mars ace the opposition and strike a chord with an even wider audience.

And rather than having one "face" it has four: Cash is jointed by Darren Gough, John Barnes and Austin Healey to promote sport and, well, chocolate.

As Cash quipped: "I'm looking forward to eating a lot of chocolate bars and hitting a lot of balls this summer."

Interestingly, Cash highlighted the importance of getting children into sport. “I’m passionate about getting kids out there and playing,” he said.

Nevertheless, Mars’ campaign is aimed squarely at adults – TV ads will not air during children’s programming and – significantly – under 16s will be excluded from getting involved in the sporting activities arranged by the company, including the 'Bounce Off' sports day style event to be held in June.

“If a kid came along with their mum [to an event] and she said it was OK, then we’d be comfortable giving them a ball,” a spokesperson for Mars’ explained. “We have a very clear policy at Mars – we don’t advertise to children.”

Obviously, Mars is highly sensitive to accusations that by promoting chocolate to children it is feeding into the nation’s obesity problem. But it seems strange that this has led to a situation where the company has had to bar children from being actively involved in sporting activities designed to get people interested in tennis, cricket, rugby and football.

Cash’s answer to this was simple: “By getting parents involved that’ll feed through to the kids.”

Linking in with the summer’s major sporting events would seem to be a winning stroke that might mean its strawberries and chocolate at Wimbledon this year.

Katy Humphries, deputy editor


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