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How an Athlete’s Sweet Tooth Can Give Candy Brands a Boost

How an Athlete’s Sweet Tooth Can Give Candy Brands a Boost

5 minute read

  • An athlete’s candy preference can become a highly publicized organic association between the brand and the athlete
  • Candy brands can further encourage this association by engaging with the athlete or formalizing the association through an endorsement deal
  • While there are multiple benefits to an organic association, not all famous customers align the existing marketing strategy of a bran

Most examples in-market of celebrities or athletes engaged with a brand are the result of a deliberate and formal endorsement relationship. However, in some instances, an athlete or public figure may be seen using a product or service without any formal association – they are simply a “famous customer”. In this case, the interaction can lead to a truly authentic association where the brand can realize significant value.

There numerous examples of athletes consuming a product in the public eye. In some instances, brands may look to capitalize by promoting the image through their communication channels, and in some cases, may even look to formalize the relationship through an endorsement deal. One common product where this association is prevalent is candy. MKTG highlights the phenomenon of famous candy connoisseurs in the sport and entertainment industry. 

Key Case Studies

Terrance Ross & Bulk Barn- This past November, Toronto Raptors’ player Terrence Ross indicated on Instagram that his new favourite place is Canadian bulk food retailer, Bulk Barn. That night, Ross had a highly productive game, with many fans insinuating that Bulk Barn was the catalyst of Ross’ performance. The next day, Bulk Barn tweeted to Terrance Ross inquiring about his favourite candies from Bulk Barn. The Canadian bulk food retailer provided Ross with a candy care package that included gift certificates and Bulk Barn apparel. The fact that Ross documented his trip to the Bulk Barn, unprompted, provided an authentic endorsement of the brand. Bulk Barn leveraged a rare opportunity for promotion and successfully engaged with a famous customer to do so. 

Giancarlo Stanton & KitKat – During the 2015 MLB season, Miami Marlin player Dee Gordon posted a video of teammate Giancarlo Stanton eating a KitKat bar during a team flight. What made the video notable was the way in which Giancarlo Stanton chose to eat the bar. Unlike how the bar is conventionally eaten (with one piece at a time), Stanton took a bite of all bars at once. Gordon posted the photo to Twitter with the caption, “You need to start respecting the rules.” The post was retweeted over 1,500 times, and created a lot of discussion online, with media outlets reporting on the picture. KitKat responded to the story with a tweet of their own comparing his eating of a KitKat to playing baseball with a tennis racquet. Much like Bulk Barn, KitKat was able to capitalize on the increased attention generated by Stanton by responding through their social channel. The tweet brought significant promotion to the brand, while linking Stanton to KitKat. 


When a brand finds themselves in a situation like this, they can look to capitalize on it by engaging with the athlete in an effort to increase their promotion. However, in some scenarios, a brand can look to formalize the relationship and offer a sponsorship deal with the famous consumer to reinforce the relationship and create a longer association.

Marshawn Lynch & Skittles - Perhaps the most notable instance of a sponsorship occurring out of an organic relationship is that of former NFL running back Marshawn Lynch and Skittles. In a 2011 game, Lynch was spotted eating Skittles on the sideline, a ritual he had done for some time. However, after being caught doing so on television, the relationship grew to become a popular story for Lynch and Skittles. In subsequent games, Lynch was showered with Skittles by Seahawks fans after scoring a touchdown and quickly Lynch and Skittles became linked. Skittles offered Lynch a two-year supply of their product, and in return Lynch decorated his cleats with Skittles branding, for which he was fined by the NFL. It wasn’t until 2014 that a formal deal between Lynch and Skittles was announced. The deal included a donation to Lynch’s Fam First Foundation, with Lynch appearing on the broadcast shopping channel, Evine, to publicly endorse the product. The relationship between Lynch and Skittles is a perfect example of how a truly organic relationship can be beneficial to the brand, and by formalizing the partnership, further leverage the athlete for unique activations and engagement.

Organic associations between an endorser and a product can prove to be highly valuable to the brand. They can achieve multiple benefits such an authentic association, receiving increased attention and promotion, with little cost to the brand. However, while there are multiple benefits to be realized, there is still a chance an organic association may not be completely positive. 

Negative Aspects of an Organic Association

With organic associations, a brand has no control over the messaging of their product. This can affect how it is perceived by the public, which could potentially go against the marketing that the brand has invested in. In such cases, this could lead brands to distance themselves from the association.

Donald Trump & Tic Tac - During last year’s election season, audio emerged of president-elect Donald Trump in which he mentioned the mint brand, Tic Tac. During the election, the Donald Trump brand became very polarizing, and in the published audio, Trump was discussing illegal activity using Tic Tacs. Tic Tac quickly recognized this was not part of their brand, and sought to quickly distance themselves from the situation by posting through their Twitter account, stating that the brand found Trump’s comments to be inappropriate and unacceptable. The brand recognized immediately that this was not something that they stood for, and quickly looked to distance themselves from the comments made.

Identification of an authentic endorser can provide a challenge for sponsorship marketers. However, in some cases, the endorser is presented to the brand. While this trend applies to all categories, there have high profile cases within confectionary category. In such an instance, brands are provided with a boost in promotion as the product choice of an athlete or celebrity can become highly publicized. Brands can leverage this opportunity for further engagement, or in some instances, enter into a formal deal to help ensure that the consumer and the brand are truly linked.

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