Celebrity endorsements, flashy marketing works – even for fruits and veggies, FNV campaign shows

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Marketing

Source: FNV
Source: FNV
Turns out flashy marketing, celebrity endorsements and the support of social influencers is just as effective at selling fruits and vegetables as it is salty snacks, sugary drinks and other packaged foods, as illustrated by the success of the unprecedented, star-studded FNV campaign that launched last year.

“We’ve been busy since we were together last year”​ and announced the launch of the FNV campaign, which promised to take “a page out of the playbook of the big brands and use the same successful marketing strategies and techniques they’ve always used ... but this time to launch FNV as both a reason to talk to Millennials about fruits and vegetables and a way to inspire them to think differently,”​ Ryan Shadrick Wilson, general counsel at Partnership for a Healthier America told attendees at the nonprofit’s Building a Healthier Future May 19.

She explained that with the help of celebrity spokespeople, including actresses Jessica Alba and Kristen Bell and athletes Victor Cruz and Cam Newton, Partnership for a Healthier America and the founding FNV partner companies created an eye catching logo, a website, billboards, video spots and social media posts that successfully competed with iconic CPG brands for teenagers’ attention and adoration to sell more produce without talking about its health benefits or guilt tripping people to eat healthier.

In less than a year, the campaign delivered more than 350 million impressions on social media, 650 million impressions through earned media and the support of more than 70 celebrities, none of whom were paid a penny for their time, Wilson said.

As a result, Wilson said over the loud applause of attendees at the Summit, “We’re seeing attitudes shift. More than 70% of people who are aware of the FNV campaign reported the campaign inspired them to eat and purchase more fruits and veggies.”

And, she added, “We are just getting started.”

In the first year, the campaign predominately focused on two pilot communities – Fresno, Calif., and Norfolk, Va. – with limited national presence. But now the campaign is ready to expand and aggressively target teens nationwide with the help of additional FNV supporters.

Joining team FNV at the Summit were: Mars Foods, Ocean Spray, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, Trinity Healthy, Lamar Outdoor, Whistle Sports, Fenway Farms, Hidden Valley, the University of Wisconsin Extension, Dick’s Sporting Goods, The North Face and One Medical.

They joined founding partners: Bolthouse Farms, Avocados From Mexico, The Honest Company, Produce for Better Health, the Produce Marketing Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, sweetgreen, Victors & Spoils and WWE.

The Good War

Several FNV partners compared their participation in the campaign to supporting a “war”​ on junk food, and argued that shifting funds from supporting their own brands to that of FNV did not lessen the benefit to their bottom line, but rather helped lift it by lifting the entire industry.

“Fruits and veggies, we have great stories to tell, but if we don’t have the traditional marketing tools to tell them, it’s going to be hard,”​ said Alvaro Luque, president of Avocados From Mexico. He added at the Summit the FNV campaign is essential because “you have in front of you, a lot of CPG companies, a lot of money trying to create marketing campaigns and messages for the consumer. And we cannot fight unless we fight in the same war.”

He said supporting the FNV campaign is a complement to advertising his own brand with each magnifying the other.

“It is not an either/or proposition. Some people might think that if I invest in my brand, I couldn’t possibly invest in FNV, but we see it as a both. There is space for individual brands to live under this overarching brand that is really speaking for a category more broadly of fruits and vegetables,” ​agreed Cathy Burns, president of the Produce Marketing Association.

She added that when it comes to changing the conversation around eating more fruits and vegetables there is no silver bullet. Rather, she said, “we need every single solution we can garner.”

She explained campaigns like FNV are essential for changing the current trajectory of the next generation, which currently is on track to live shorter lives than their parents unless they exercise more, drink more water and eat healthier foods.

“This could be our legacy,”​ she said of FNV, adding: “I don’t throw that word around lightly. As the mother of two young girls, I am really committed to leave the world a better place than when they entered it.”

The business case

She also made the business case for joining campaigns, such as FNV, but pointing to the sales lift experienced by participants in the similar Eat Brighter campaign that used Sesame Street characters to attract children to produce and healthy foods.

Specifically, she noted, companies that participated in that campaign saw a 3% lift in sales on average, with some companies seeing as much as an 11% sales lift.

FNV likely can garner similar results if industry works together, she said, adding: “This is our time.”

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