What do Stone Cold Steve Austin, the 2007 Florida Gators basketball team, Joe DiMaggio and Kristi Yamaguchi all have in common? Well, besides perfectly toned athletic bodies and international fame, they are just four of hundreds of sports celebrities and teams who throughout the years showcased their success by appearing on the front of a Wheaties cereal box.
The cereal Wheaties was first created in 1922 when a Minnesota clinician from a company that soon became General Mills accidently spilled wheat bran mixture onto a hot stove. The high nutritional value and taste of these wheat flakes made this cereal good enough to become mass produced.
Five years later, Wheaties began their association with sports by appearing on a billboard of a minor league baseball team in Minneapolis. When deciding what to write on their billboard, advertising executive Knox Reeves sketched out a box of Wheaties and instantly came up with the phrase “Wheaties— The Breakfast of Champions”. From that point on, the phrase stuck, and the cereal has been marketed as ‘The Breakfast of Champions’ to this day.
Soon after, General Mills decided to showcase a sports celebrity on the front of their Wheaties boxes as part of this marketing strategy, and in 1934, the legendary baseball player, Lou Gehrig, was the first to appear in what would become a rite of passage and measure of success for athletes. From Jesse Owens, Mary Lou Retton and Walter Payton, to Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and many more in between, sports legends have continuously graced the front cover of Wheaties’ iconic orange boxes.
General Mills has continued to use superstar athletes to market the Wheaties brand. And while the cereal’s taste may not be desirable to every palate, the brand’s classic messaging that emphasizes the importance of physical fitness and healthy nutrition has certainly translated well into the 21st century!