By Mar 01, 2002

Like college roommates, Kraft Foods and Coca-Cola Co. always get together for the Super Bowl. This year, they invited 150 of their closest friends to the party.

The national iteration of the packaged goods giants’ third straight co-promotion enlisted celebrity chef (and New Orleans native) Emeril Lagasse for a Big Easy Super Bowl Bash. The campaign featured free recipe booklets with purchase at retail and a sweepstakes awarding a trip to New Orleans for the game and a meet-and-greet with Lagasse at one of his restaurants. A national FSI, local radio spots, Web site activity, and P-O-P displays supported. Kraft shop 141 Communicator, Chicago, and Coke agency Integer Group, Denver, handled.

All done. Fire up the barbecue, pop the bottle tops, and turn on the wide-screen TV, right? Not so fast. First, someone’s got to develop account-specific overlays for 150 different retailers.

That’s right, 150. Because consumers aren’t the same from region to region and, more importantly, retailers aren’t the same from store to store.

But 150? “There really wasn’t anyone of note who wasn’t involved,” says Keane O’Malley, national co-marketing manager at Glenview, IL-based Kraft, which enlisted J. Brown/LMC Group, Stamford, CT, to hash out the countless account-specific details. “We worked more closely with retailers on the local level this year than we have in the past,” adds Stephanie Miller, Coca-Cola director of strategic alliances.

The need to please retailers is the reason why account-specific efforts featured a different sweeps with a chance to win something not generally associated with the gridiron: a “Dream Kitchen Makeover.” Major chains including Albertson’s in the South and ShopRite in the Northeast were given $20,000 kitchen remodeling packages (supplied by Home Depot, Atlanta). Frequent-shopper card swipers were automatically entered whenever they bought Kraft, Nabisco, or Coca-Cola products. (Retailers in markets without a Home Depot could host a different version offering prizes such as wide-screen TVs.) Ten first-prize winners received Emeril cook-ware and recipe kits. P-O-P displays included standees, banners, tabletops, case wraps, and inflatable footballs.

“We wanted more relevance with the head shopper of the house: Mom,” says Coca-Cola market activation manager Anne Drozda. That was also accomplished with the help of Lagasse, who’s never played a down in his life. “We really focused on the food and beverage aspect this year,” says Donna McCabe, Kraft’s associate director of scale events. “In the past, we worked with football celebrities who didn’t have the food credibility that Emeril does.”

The campaign’s account-specific nature even extended to Home Depot, which gave away a makeover of its own through an under-the-cap game on bottles in Coke vending machines.

Southern Exposure

In order to revive the flagging Martha White flour brand, Minneapolis-based CPG giants Pillsbury and International Multifoods took it one chain at a time.

In a rare case of bipartisan cooperation, Pillsbury designed and launched an effort in summer 2001 that International Multifoods picked up in the fall after it purchased Pillsbury’s desserts and specialty products unit from General Mills for $304.5 million. (It helped that Martha White staffers made the transition to International Multifoods.)

To get Martha White back on track, Pillsbury knew it needed to reconnect with retailers, from the chains down to the small-town grocers. “A lot of the local retailers had grown up with the brand,” says Evenson.

Instead of a full makeover, then, the brand needed simply to apply a little more foundation — a return to the folksy image that had made it successful in the first place. “Martha White has a lot of history in the South,” says Barbara McCartney, marketing director at International Multifoods. “It’s more than just a brand name. In some [areas], the Martha White jingle is as well known as ‘Happy Birthday.’”

And it couldn’t afford to wait until the sale closed. So Pillsbury hosted a Bluegrass Bash at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville last August — an appropriate setting, considering the brand’s marketing history (see sidebar). The invitation list included representatives from such chains as Wal-Mart, Kroger, and Food Lion, as well as key stores serving military bases. (“There are a disproportionate number of military bases located in the South. Any retailer-driven promotion needs to take that into consideration,” says McCartney.)

In addition to showing them a good time, the Bash let Pillsbury map out strategy with its various partners. “It’s hard working with so many retailers because they all have different policies you need to accommodate,” says Raquel Beckett, Martha White’s marketing manager. “We also had a lot of moving parts to coordinate.”

She can say that again. The first phase kicked off with a September FSI announcing the Martha White Jingle-Sing-A-Long sweepstakes, which invited consumers to call a toll-free number (1-866-U-Bake-MW) to enter. Callers were greeted by the voice of country star Marty Stuart inviting them to sing the Martha White jingle. Ten callers were selected at random to sing on the Grand Ole Opry stage this month with Stuart and singer Rhonda Vincent.

The FSI also featured a self-liquidating offer for the Martha White Bluegrass Reunion CD compilation for two UPCs and $4.99.

It was backed by 10 million packages delivered to 5,000 stores along with P-O-P materials including tear-pads and take-ones. Radio spots supported in 10 markets. Sidecar promotions included a Martha White Jingle Night with the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx, a Nashville-area Minor League Baseball team.

Not surprisingly, Bentonville, AR-based Wal-Mart got some special attention. The brand resurrected the decades-old Bluegrass Express Tour Bus (see sidebar) to make it the official vehicle for Vincent’s 150-concert tour, and the singer made stops at four stores to play mini-concerts and autograph CDs.

The effort improved sales by more than 20 percent and reestablished Martha White as a prominent brand in the South. That’s enough to have International planning another Jingle-Sing-A-Long for 2002.

If retail partners like the song, you keep on singing.

When Country Wasn’t Cool

HERE’S A TASTE OF MARTHA WHITE’S RICH HISTORY: The name originated in 1899, when Richard Lindsey, owner of the Royal Flour Mill in Nashville, named the product after his daughter.

The brand steadily gained prominence in the South through the years, in large part by aligning itself with country music. In the ‘40s, it even sponsored such radio programs as the Grand Ole Opry (and has been a continuous sponsor to the present day). Meanwhile, The Martha White Biscuit and Cornbread Time show introduced future stars such as Chet Atkins and Marty Robbins.

In 1953, the brand hired the little-known group of Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, and the Foggy Mountain Boys to barnstorm around the region in a bus singing, “You Bake Right with Martha White.”

The song has become a regional standard. Concert-goers often ask contem-porary performers to play the jingle and rising star Martha Vincent featured it on a recent release. A bluegrass band even asked the company if they could use the brand’s trademarked “Hot Rise” tagline for its name.

Talk about unaided recall.