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Celebrity ad campaign and ‘iconic’ branding of fruits and vegetables

Colin-Kaepernick

WASHINGTON — The Produce Marketing Association has approved $1 million to launch a new, celebrity-endorsed fruit and vegetable marketing blitz, called FNV, that will be tested in Fresno, CA, and Hampton Roads, VA, this spring.

Some details of the new venture were announced at today’s Partnership for a Healthier America 2015 Building a Healthier Future Summit in Washington, DC, followed by a PMA media teleconference to outline the new marketing campaign.Colin-KaepernickNFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick

“We will finally operate like a big, iconic brand,” said Cathy Burns, PMA president. This has “monumental possibilities” to change the conversation around fruits and vegetables, demand more consumption and support a healthier America, she said.

It received immediate endorsement from first lady Michelle Obama, who spoke at the summit at the fifth anniversary of the Let’s Move! campaign.

“That campaign is going to be amazing. It’s exciting. It’s fresh. It’s clever,” she said, referring to FNV. “If folks are going to pour money into marketing unhealthy foods, then let’s fight back with ads for healthy foods, right?”

The campaign was officially kicked off at the PHA summit with a video with celebrities such as Kristen Bell, Nick Jonas, Victor Cruz, Jessica Alba and other sports stars.

Research shows children are highly influenced by celebrity endorsements, explained Andrew Nathan, chief marketing officer for Victors & Spoils, an advertising agency, in the call to reporters. FNV is “super hero meets sports brand” that can appeal to teens, he said.

On Thursday, marketers launched the website and social media campaigns on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Nathan said the campaign intends to allow for consumer-generated ads with kids and parents who can use their name and age and type of fruit or vegetable they want to endorse. The marketing plan includes a signature line, such as limited edition of a certain vegetable or fruit with a celebrity name, an apparel line, local sponsorship of youth sports and teams and other traditional ways to use the logo.

PHA has already worked with PMA on the eat brighter! marketing campaign that allows U.S. retailers and suppliers to use the Sesame Street characters without licensing fees for two years.

The new campaign uses real-life characters to build a brand with humor and a nod to the intelligence of the consumer, according to PHA’s Ryan Shadrick-Wilson, chief strategy officer and general counsel. “We’re trying to make vegetables hip and cool.”

Wilson said it was contracting with Neilsen to gather data from the first two test markets in California and Virginia before a national rollout. PHA said a robust research plan will accompany FNV, measuring sales of fresh, frozen, canned and dried in the lead markets and awareness, recall and resonance testing.

Kevin Fiori, chair of PMA’s board of directors and vice president of sales and marketing for Sunkist Growers, said the board unanimously agreed to contribute $1 million for the initiative.

He noted FNV is a complementary campaign to eat brighter!, which targets a different audience but the same goal of increasing consumption.

Burns said FNV applies to retailer and foodservice operators, and in the two lead markets PMA hopes both will take this opportunity and apply it. PMA will have a marketing task force to help guide implementation with expectations to have participation from retail and foodservice segments.

In a separate statement, Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group, praised the new campaign to boost fruit and vegetable consumption with celebrity endorsements.

“For too long, entertainers and athletes have used their clout to promote soda and other junk foods, so perhaps the FNV campaign heralds a new trend,” said CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson.

“For this campaign to succeed, it will need a huge and sustained investment behind it, which I hope the industry provides,” he said. “Ideally government agencies would invest in similar media campaigns aimed at reducing junk food consumption and promoting healthy diets.”