General Mills is using Cheerios’ long-running Spoonfuls of Stories promotional program to reward aspiring writers.
This year, the annual campaign—which gives away children’s books in boxes of Cheerios—adds a contest that will award $5,000 for the best unpublished children’s story.
This is the first time that Cheerios has run an authors’ contest as part of the program.
“This year, we also want to help support first-time authors, which we hope will lead to more great books that will inspire and entertain children and the adults who read with them,” said Ricardo Fernandez, marketing manager for Cheerios, in a statement.
Unpublished authors can submit their stories (for kids 4 to 8) online at SpoonfulsOfStoriesContest.com. Two of the three finalists will win $1,000. The top winner will have his story evaluated by Simon & Schuster, which may choose to publish it. The stories of all three finalists will appear on the Spoonfuls Web site.
The contest began June 19 and runs through Sept. 7. The first round of judging will be conducted by non-profit literacy group First Book, which has been Cheerios’ partner for Spoonfuls since 2003. A slate of finalists will be judged by a panel including Simon & Schuster editors.
This fall, 5 million boxes of Cheerios will have free books inside. The promotional boxes will be on shelf by November, in time for Children’s Book Week. There are five Simon & Schuster titles, including “The New Girl … and Me,” written by first-time author Jacqui Robbins. (The other four titles will be announced this fall.)
“The book selection is arduous; we review books for months,” said General Mills spokesperson Shelly Dvorak. “We never before considered whether a book was written by a new author, and we chose ‘The New Girl … and Me’ without considering that. But once we had Robbins on board, it opened the discussion of highlighting other new authors.”
Cheerios will also make a donation to First Book as part of the promotion; so far, the brand has donated $2.3 million to the non-profit that distributes kids’ books to low-income families. And Cheerios boxes again will carry a form that lets consumers make their own donation to benefit their local chapter of First Book. General Mills handles Spoonfuls of Stories in-house; so far, it has given away 25 million books.
The campaign follows Cheerios’ spring promotion that launched Give a Child a Book Week, a joint effort of First Book and General Mills. That campaign donates 100,000 copies of Eric Carle’s book “The Tiny Seed” to First Book chapters in five states (20,000 books per state). Consumers chose the states: Cheerios boxes decorated with illustrations from Carle’s classic “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” invited families to answer trivia questions online as part of a Book Donation Challenge. For each correct answer, respondents could vote for the state they wanted to receive books. The five states with the most votes were Illinois, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio and Tennessee. The campaign, handled in-house, wrapped up June 16.
Separately, Cheerios signed on in May as a sponsor of the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, a position that’s being developed by the Library of Congress and the Children’s Book Council.
Flagship Cheerios’ sales are relatively flat at $295 million, up only 0.46% for the 52 weeks ended May 20, according to Information Resources Inc. Sales for Honey Nut Cheerios rose 2.8% to $259 in food, drug and mass outlets, and new flavor Fruity Cheerios has already grown to $36 million in sales.