A summer-long national marketing campaign that challenges summer fitness fans and recreational enthusiasts to consider the banana as one of nature's best energy sources has its roots in a new study equating America's best-selling fruit with the most popular sports drinks.
The study, published in May in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE, found that bananas provide the same energy boost, a much bigger nutrition bang and no artificial ingredients compared to the leading sports drinks — at about one-third the price.
To leverage this new research and the widely held belief that bananas provide one of the best natural pick-me-ups, Dole Fresh Fruit, a subsidiary of Dole Food Co. Inc., is launching Nature's Original Energy Bar, a national program that encourages banana fans to see the fruit as nutritionally superior to other sources of energy during and after summer exercise and recreation.
Elements of the summer program include digital advertising, radio, in-store, public relations and social media elements that reinforce the proven energy- and recovery-inducing qualities of the fruit.
Campaign-specific mobile and web pages target banana fans inside and outside the store with nutritional information and healthy, high-energy new summer recipes ranging from fruit bars and smoothies to snacks, salads, sandwiches and entrees.
Launched nationwide on July 1, the energy-themed initiative is part of Dole's year-long Go Bananas Every Day campaign designed to make bananas an even bigger part of America's daily routine. The program is the first to target fitness fans and outdoor enthusiasts in addition to mainstream banana lovers.
"Everyone assumes bananas to be one of nature's best, most efficient energy sources, but until this study a direct comparison of bananas to sports drinks had never been undertaken," David Bright, vice president of marketing for Dole Fresh Fruit, said in a July 3 press release. "Now that we've proven once and for all that bananas are a superior natural energy source, it made sense to devote our summer program to the good news."
In the study, Bananas vs. Sports Drinks as an Energy Source for Athletes, researchers at the Dole Nutrition Research Institute at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, NC, used metabolomics to show that bananas provide fuel to the working muscles just as well as commercially available sports drinks.
The study also reinforced those direct benefits that bananas provide that sports drinks can't, such as improved blood antioxidant capacity and the vitamins, minerals and fiber needed by athletes to maintain their performance. The first research to directly compare bananas to sports drinks as an energy source, the study is also the first to show that bananas perform as favorably on a metabolic level.
High-energy campaign extensions
To support the research and related campaign, Dole created the Nature's Original Energy Bar Adventure Sweepstakes, in which participants can enter on the DOLE Bananas Facebook page for a chance to win the high-energy adventure trip of their choice.
The national campaign will be supported by intensified, local-market efforts in Baltimore, Charlotte, SC, Portland, OR, and Seattle. These markets, which are being christened "Top Banana Cities" for 2012, have been singled out by Dole for significant local advertising, in-store, online, social media and PR support to encourage local banana-loving residents to widen their banana horizons even further.
Throughout the summer, Dole representatives will honor those local restaurants, bars and other food-oriented businesses in each city that have a unique connection to the fruit, or push the commonly accepted boundaries of banana cuisine. Dole will also work with local registered dieticians, chefs and food, fitness and family bloggers to educate residents about bananas through media and public appearances, sampling and tasting events.
"Pound for pound and dollar for dollar, bananas pack an amazing nutritional and energy punch," Mr. Bright added in the press release. "They really are nature's original energy bar — and we're excited to be able to take this extremely positive, research-backed message to banana and fitness lovers nationwide."