PowerBar’s Gutsy Deal with Ryan Lochte

Posted on by Patty Odell

You gotta’ have guts to strike a marketing deal with six-time Gold Medalist Ryan Lochte. After his stunning wins at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, he set off an international firestorm when he fabricated a story about being robbed at gunpoint at a gas station during the Games. Many of his sponsors evaporated and he slipped into hiding. His golden glow tarnished.

A screen shot from the “Clean Start” video series starring Ryan Lochte.

One brand, however, has the mojo: PowerBar. It’s also got an $18 million budget and a new campaign, “Clean Start,” carrying the tagline: “If PowerBar and Ryan Lochte can pull off a Clean Start, you can do anything.” It’s the brand’s first fully integrated campaign in 10 years and introduces the Clean Whey Protein Bar. It kicked off last month with digital ads and videos showing Lochte reflecting on his journey and his desire for a clean start.

The centerpiece of the campaign is the microsite, PowerBarCleanStart.com, where the Lochte videos can be viewed, people can take the “clean start” pledge and sign up to receive a free Clean Whey Protein Bar to provide the energy needed to begin his or her own clean start. Lochte-inspired Clean Start video messages can be created using AdGreetz technology to share on social channels.

In addition to Lochte, a series of documentary videos will feature everyday athletes telling their inspirational stores. There will also be participation by all 100 members of the team that works on the PowerBar brand to share their Clean Start narratives on social media. Both paid and earned media, PR and social campaigns are firing on all cylinders to help drive consumers to the site.

At retail, the messaging continues with promotions during Kroger Free Fridays. Last Friday, for example, Kroger loyalty program members got a coupon for a free PowerBar Clean Whey bar in their inboxes. P-O-P displays show off the new bars and PowerBar ProteinPlus bars.

Also supporting the messaging are homepage takeovers airing the Lochte video on Bleacher Report along with targeted pre-roll on Mashable, ESPN, Hulu, YouTube, Buzzfeed, and a video buy in the MyFitnessPal app.

Nick Stiritz, senior brand manager at PowerBar, shares insights about the campaign.

Nick Stiritz
Nick Stiritz

CM: What is the new Clean Whey line?
STIRITZ: It embraces the brand’s clean start through evolved products and improved nutrition, with high-quality protein and no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners.

CM: After 10 years, why is this the right time for a 360-degree campaign?
STIRITZ: PowerBar was the brand that started this category 30 years ago, but a lot has changed in how people eat, participate in sports and what type of bars they are looking for. We have invested a lot to understand the consumer in the marketplace and we’re ready.

CM: Where did the idea “Clean Start” come from?
STIRITZ: The idea of a clean start began internally. The Clean Whey Bar represents our clean start from a formulation standpoint and different consumption occasions. We kicked off our own clean start about how to bring PowerBar to life. PowerBar has always been a brand for sports.

CM: What are the goals for the campaign?
STIRITZ: It’s really to get in front of this new generation of consumers who maybe never had a PowerBar and show off these new products. We’re invested in aligning to what consumers are looking for.

CM: Was it challenging to get the idea of poking fun at Lochte approved?
STIRITZ: There is a humorous side of sports that isn’t always highlighted in broader media. We want to get out in front of consumers, show our new products and motivate and inspire them to start on their “Clean Start” program in 2017.

CM: Storytelling plays a big role in the campaign. Why?
STIRITZ: We have always used those real stories, highlighting athletic achievements. It was natural for us to continue to bring those stories to life.

CM: Lochte is a mega-athlete. Do you include everyday athletes in the campaign?
STIRITZ: We do have everyday athletes sharing their Clean-Start stories to round out this journey that we want consumers to engage on. In sports marketing, too often it’s all about the professional athletes and taking it to that level, which is great for getting noticed, but often lacks that ability to bring that authentic messaging that people can connect to.

CM: What were the biggest challenges in launching the campaign?
STIRITZ: The speed at which we brought this to life; aligning it to January when so many consumers give up New Year’s resolutions.

CM: Any challenges working with Lochte?
STIRITZ: Working with Ryan over the past two months and keeping this hush, hush. That was a challenge, making sure, as we brought this campaign to life that it really had that pop and that wow factor. We definitely left the PR team with a couple of sleepless nights. Watch the video:

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