A crowning moment for any athlete can range from the moment they’re coronated as champions, or the second they sign a multi-million dollar contract. One accolade that few ever get to achieve though is the hallowed grounds of cardboard courtship by way of a cereal box sponsorship. Kellogg’s is taking a unique approach with their new “What Gets You Started?” campaign by showcasing a team of first-time US Olympians and Paralympians both on their brand of limited-edition boxes and across digital and social platforms as well to share the stories of what gets them started each day as they train toward the Summer Games.


“Everyone has something that drives them to succeed, and I am thrilled to be able to help people explore their motivations and find common ground in what gets us all started, fans and athletes alike,” said Olympic swimming legend and Team Kellog’s captain Dara Torres.

With Samsung and NBC partnering to broadcast over 85 hours of virtual reality programming over the course of the 2016 Rio Olympics, Kellogg’s is capitalizing on the fast-moving VR content train too with a 360-degree experience featuring decorated swimmer Tom Shields. In the video, viewers are transported with Shields from the starting platform, into the pool and all the way to the final touch of the wall.

Athletes being depicted on the front flap of cereal boxes dates back to the 1950s when General Mills started their popular Wheaties marketing ploy with Bob Richards, a two-time Olympic pole vaulting champion who was the first athlete to be featured on the front of the cereal.

Kellogg’s has a history of donning US Olympians, too. Their stable in recent years include Michael Phelps, Summer Sanders, Kerri Walsh, the gold medal winning 2012 US Women’s Gymnastics Team, among countless others.

Now the cereal maker is the latest brand vaulting from two-dimensional marketing to 360-degree videos—even competitor Post recently unveiled a VR activation via Fruity Pebbles. And consumers are eating up everything VR-related.

According to a study released by Greenlight VR on Monday, 52 percent of respondents would like to be associated with a brand that sponsors VR, while 71 percent of them consider a brand forward-thinking and modern for such an activation.

Andy Shripka, assistant marketing director for Kellogg’s, joined [a]listdaily to discuss the company’s latest integrated marketing campaign.

Tom Shields_Cereal Box

What is the “What Gets You Started?” campaign designed to accomplish?

This year we’re working with swimmer Tom Shields and four other first-time US Olympian and Paralympians, including Simone Biles, Julie Johnston, Ajee’ Wilson and Natalie Bieule, to make the unprecedented connection between the starts of everyday people and Olympic athletes. Whether you’re a mom getting her kids ready for school, or an elite athlete preparing for competition, we understand that everyone awakes in the morning with a personal motivation to get them started. We started 100 days out from the Games with a launch event in New York, and have since been working with each of these Olympians to showcase their stories.

How will the 2016 Rio Olympics and this specific campaign help elevate the Kellogg’s brand profile?

Kellogg’s has a long history of helping athletes get a great start to their day, at home or while on the road competing. In 2016, Kellogg’s is making unprecedented connections between the starts of everyday Americans and those of first-time Olympic hopefuls—athletes whose stories are untold and potential yet to be defined. We focused on selecting first-time Olympic athletes for our team who were getting the start on their Olympic journey and toward achieving their dreams in Rio.

Ajee Simpson_Cereal Box

What kind of marketing activations can customers expect with the physical boxes?

All of our athletes will be featured on the front of their favorite Kellogg’s cereal boxes from now through the Olympics, including Simone and Natalie on Kellogg’s Special K Red Berries, Julie on Kellogg’s Special K Original, Tom on Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Ajee’ on Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, all in stores now. On-pack art continues the conversation on social media, as fans are encouraged by prompts on the cereal box to post photos about what gets them started each day using #GetsMeStarted on their social channels.

How is Kellogg’s using social media, content and other storytelling tools to engage in new ways with consumers? What’s the strategy behind the #GetsMeStarted campaign? What kind of social rollouts can followers expect?

To get the #GetsMeStarted message out there we created unique digital content to bring their stories to life. Throughout the run-up to the Olympics, each athlete will engage with fans on social media, showing their daily motivations with posts using #GetsMeStarted. We’re seeing great engagement with fans and expect things to really ramp up the closer we get to the opening ceremony. In the instance of Tom, we went a step further and brought people a unique perspective of what motivates him as he shares his thoughts and a morning swim through a fully immersive virtual reality experience.

Julie Johnston_Cereal Box

A bevy of brands are frequently using emerging technology such as 360-degree video almost daily. Why is VR critical to a present-day marketing campaign?

This is a new space for a lot of brands, including Kellogg’s, and presents a unique opportunity to share our stories in a fully immersive way. In the example of Tom, we already had a lot of great content about how he starts each day, but wanted to bring fans closer. Tom allowed us to bring fans to the pool with him each morning, even underwater, and listen to him share what gets him started. Because of that, we feel the VR experience makes the connection between Kellogg’s, Tom and fans that much stronger.

How does using VR and other immersive experiences best position Kellogg’s marketing efforts moving forward?

We’re excited about the engagement our VR video has seen to date. The spirit of the Olympics presented a great opportunity for us to tell the #GetsMeStarted story via VR. It’s still too soon to tell where we’ll go from here, but we’ll continue to look for more opportunities to engage our consumers in interactive ways.

Kellogg’s also has previously partnered with Marvel to present a VR game and a separate viewer for the release of Captain America: Civil War. What was your integrated marketing strategy for that specific brand implementation? What were the results?

Captain 4

Kellogg gave fans a unique way to experience the excitement of this epic showdown with an immersive VR app and free VR viewers. The app and viewers let you choose a side and do battle as either Captain America or Iron Man. Turn, spin and fight in any direction—fans are put in the center of the action. The app can be downloaded for free from the Apple App Store or at Google Play. The viewers could be ordered by redeeming proof of purchase codes from specially marked products. We also celebrated the arrival of this newest Avengers movie with limited edition products, including Captain America: Civil War cereal and fruit snacks.

Other cereal makers like Post are using technology and innovation to create brand awareness. Why do you think immersive experiences are conducive to positive results for cereal brands?

This is a big time for all brands to experiment with VR and for consumers to engage. At Kellogg’s, we’ve used it to present fun games and to tell inspirational stories in a truly immersive way. There’s a lot of competition out there for the attention of potential fans, and we’re always looking for the best way to connect.

How will Kellogg’s continue to leverage interactive promotions in the future?

We’re always looking into the best ways to share our cherished heritage and promote our brands. As interactive technology continues to grow, we’ll look at which technologies and stories fit together and leverage them accordingly.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan