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Better Eat Your Wheaties

 

One of the great things about YouTube, that most of us probably take for granted, is when searching a topic or a video you have in mind, the site makes life a whole lot simpler by automatically presenting the user with a selection of related videos to check out.

Of course with the myriad of choices on offer, it’s natural that you may find yourself straying from your original selection (whether out of boredom, curiosity, ADD), one click leads to another and the next thing you know minutes pass, sometimes hours, you’ve gone off on complete tangents and plummeted down a video-sharing rabbit hole, landing somewhere you didn’t expect to be when you started your initial search, somewhere such as…

Breakfast cereal

Yep, breakfast cereal. As children we generally grow up eating the artificially flavoured and sugar frosted variety, once we hit our teens and then adulthood, the cereal choices tend to go the healthy route (in saying that, at age 37 my inner child still enjoys a good old bowl of Coco Pops every now and then). Some of us will even push the boundaries of consumption, choosing to eat it also for lunch or dinner. However there are constants in life and one such constant in many households over the years is the breakfast of champions, Wheaties.

Now before I get back to where I started (stay with me now) here’s a little history lesson for you. Wheaties were created in 1921, and like a lot of great inventions their creation was the result of an accident. A health clinician in Minneapolis was mixing a batch of bran gruel for his patients and spilled some of the mix onto a hot stove. The combination of the spilt gruel and heat resulted in a crisp flake. The clinician tasted his unintentional handiwork and decided he was onto something. A visit to to the Washburn Crosby Company and a meeting with the head miller, George Cormack, lead to strengthening of the flakes and more testing before finally settling on the perfect flake.

The company held a contest to decide the naming rights of the new cereal. The wife of the export manager, a lady by the name of Jane Bausman, was chosen as the winner, her entry beating other entries such as Nutties and Gold Medal Wheat Flakes.

And thus Wheaties were born.

General Mills eventually began associating the product with sports after marketing savvy employee Sam Gale saw an opportunity to cash in on the popularity of America’s favourite pastime, baseball. Soon Wheaties were sponsoring baseball broadcasts, which lead to athletes appearing on the front of the Wheaties box.

Almost seventy years on, a young man would follow in the footsteps of names such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gherig, Bob Cousy, Carl Lewis, A. C. Green (???) and many more, by appearing on the familiar orange box for the first time, his name?

Michael Jordan.

If you’re an athlete in America, having your face emblazoned on the Wheaties box has long been considered quite the accomplishment, a reflection of your achievements in the sporting world and proof that you’re on top of your game. With 18 appearances to his name, no one has appeared on the front of iconic box as much as Michael Jordan.

Yet as prestigious an honour that may be, being named a spokesperson for the product is held in even higher regard. To this date there have only been a total of seven athletes that have made the cut. MJ is one of them.

Over the years the boxes became collectibles and to this day are still highly sought after, fetching hefty prices on the secondary market. That’s a topic for another time though (no more tangents I promise), as today I’m shining the spotlight on the television commercials that Michael appeared in as a spokesman for the brand.

Is this a complete and the most comprehensive collection of Michael Jordan Wheaties commercials ever compiled? I’m not entirely sure, but I scoured YouTube for as many as I could humanly find and had fun doing so. After only ever seeing some snippets of them on Michael Jordan video tapes in years past (that’s right kids, VHS video tapes), the other fun I had was seeing most of these commercials for the first time. Hopefully you will too. If I’ve missed any that you may recall please feel free to let me know or jump on YouTube, have a dig around yourself, you never know what or where you’ll turn up.

 

 

 Michael’s foray into the world of breakfast cereal endorsement came in 1988. Not only does the ad give us a glimpse his Air Jordan IV sneakers, but it also serves as a reminder that Mike once had hair, disgraced baseball star Pete Rose and Bruce Jenner (pre-Kardashian) both adorned Wheaties boxes and that another Chicago sporting icon received the orange box treatment and was the first pro football player on the cover, Sweetness!

 

 ‘GET THE BOX, GET THE POSTER’

Putting the aerial exploits of Air Jordan on posters to entice kids and move units makes perfect sense. Well played General Mills.

 

Moving on from posters, in 1990 you could nab yourself a free Air Jordan Flight Club Calendar “from the box jocks”. Also worth noting is that MJ can be seen on the featured box sporting the “Grape” Air Jordan V, which he never wore in an NBA game. As for the Payless commercial, consider that a reminder of how “cool” their range of shoes weren’t and that you should never listen to your Dad when it comes to style tips.

 

All you need to know about this 30 second spot that had MJ teaming up with former UNC team mate James Worthy, are 5 words that have left an indelible mark on pop culture and became a mainstay for the brand. “You better eat your Wheaties”. It also struck a chord with Ice Cube.

 

 On average MJ ran the length of an NBA court 165 times a game, he played in 1072 games and the court is 94 feet long. Do the math kids.

 

 Even if the acting career of the actor in this commercial never amounted to much, he can at least say he beat Michael Jordan one-on-one. You can too, here you go.

 

Deloris knows best.

 

Imagine you grew up as a kid who was a Bulls fan during the Michael Jordan era. I hate these child actors and hope their parents squandered all their money.

 

The message is simple, eat your Wheaties, hit your free throws.

If you’ve gotten this far congrats, I award you my silver spoon trophy for being this interested in whole grain. I think by 1992 the creative forces behind the Wheaties commercials seemed to go the cookie cutter route, because the following two examples are a little too similar…

 

 

Post 1993 the MJ Wheaties well runs dry. Obviously his retirement and his pursuit of baseball took precedent and both he and the company moved on. It wasn’t until his return to the game a few years later that he would briefly appear in this 1996 commercial that I only just discovered tonight…

 

Got Milk?

UPDATE

After finishing this piece last night I stumbled upon the following two commercials on Vimeo, well worth the watch folks.

 

Wheaties Michael Jordan from Sam Pillsbury on Vimeo.

One Comment

  1. Only ever seen one of these ads before. Great piece on MJ’s mega-endorsement past.

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