Little League invites Sunkist to pitch citrus

10/22/2003 12:00:00 AM
Todd Foltz

(Oct. 22) ORLANDO, Fla. — Thousands of young ball players will turn to Sunkist citrus for healthy snacks under a new, three-year deal in which the Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based cooperative’s products will become the Official Fresh Snack of Little League Baseball.

The deal begins in 2004 and affords Sunkist Growers Inc. the chance to boost citrus sales and awareness in a new market while helping Little League promote healthy lifestyles for children of all income brackets. Little League does not turn children away even when they can’t afford to pay fees, and corporate sponsorships help defray those costs.

“Sunkist looked at this as a tremendous opportunity to bring citrus to an audience that you don’t traditionally think of in association with citrus,” said Robert Verloop, vice president of marketing for Sunkist. “With soccer, sure, you’re used to kids having citrus at halftime, but when you think baseball, you think cotton candy, etc.”

Sunkist joins a longstanding list of Little League sponsors that dates back to when U.S. Rubber signed on in 1941. Other sponsors include Snickers, Capri Sun, AT&T, Ace Hardware, Wilson Leather and Russell Athletic.

PARENTS IN MARKETING SIGHT

Verloop hopes not only to reach the children who play Little League Baseball, but also their parents. Sunkist has a slate of educational and promotional programs planned to back the new relationship.

Jud Rogers, vice president of marketing for Little League, said the deal with Sunkist goes hand in hand with Little League’s premise of encouraging healthy lives for kids.

“Baseball is the vehicle we use,” Roger said. “But our program is healthy development of children in every way. We haven’t had a healthy snack. We were unbalanced. This fits well. We’ve always thought oranges make a lot of sense for baseball. They’re easy for mom and dad to do.”

Indeed, the deal with Little League — which was initiated when Little League approached Sunkist in May — coincides nicely with several of Sunkist’s campaigns.

“This builds on the program we started last year of better snacking,” Verloop said. “This is a great opportunity to take citrus and position it against candies and cookies.”

GAME FACE

And the picture Sunkist is using to promote the deal — two young baseball players smiling into the camera with their lips spread to reveal colorful orange peels — is the runner-up of a contest Sunkist had already conducted, in which consumers sent in pictures of themselves with orange peel smiles.

Backing up the Little League deal, Sunkist will offer educational materials on its redesigned Web site for parents and children alike, as well as team mailings as the new season rolls around.

Andrea Ridl, manager of retail trade development for Sunkist, said even Sunkist packaging will tout its relationship with Little League. Beginning in April, bags of Sunkist navels will feature a picture of the two boys and their Sunkist Smiles. Sunkist also will ship products in cartons with baseball themes and include in-pack promotional and educational materials. During the summer, Sunkist will do the same with bags of valencias.

In addition, Sunkist may increase its sponsorship of Little League state championships and offer samplings at the Little League World Series, which takes place each year in late July or early August, Verloop said. Sunkist also plans to do radio promotions during the Little League World Series, encourage citrus consumption in the dugout and work to boost international promotions in countries such as Japan.

And under the agreement, Sunkist’s participating retail partners can get their logos included on promotional materials along with Sunkist’s and Little League’s.

John McGuigan, vice president of domestic sales for Sunkist, said the Little League promotion also will benefit Sunkist’s retail partners.

“Retailers want ways to connect with the community,” McGuigan said. “What better way than through Little League?”



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