Special Report: TV sponsorship & value-added promos: Athletics helped NutraSweet reinforce image

The non-sugar sweetener company wanted a program that built and reinforced the brand image of NutraSweet.What that meant was the development of the NutraSweet/CTV Future Fund, an execution that supported NutraSweet's positioning as a promoter of a balanced lifestyle, while remaining...

The non-sugar sweetener company wanted a program that built and reinforced the brand image of NutraSweet.

What that meant was the development of the NutraSweet/CTV Future Fund, an execution that supported NutraSweet’s positioning as a promoter of a balanced lifestyle, while remaining with the product’s strategic goals.

Duaina Kirby, president and founder of Toronto’s Results by Design, a strategic promotions and advertising firm, says during the talks that went on as NutraSweet, CTV Television Network and Results By Design considered ideas, there was news that school athletics programs across the country were being cut back as funding declined.

That sparked the notion that NutraSweet should step in and make up some of the shortfall.

Allan Reynolds, executive vice-president of Continental PIR in Toronto, NutraSweet’s communications firm, says his client has been associated with cause-related marketing before, but it has been mainly in the health and dietetic sectors.

Reynolds says what became the NutraSweet/CTV Future Fund seemed more in touch with the community, noting youngsters are one of NutraSweet’s most important markets.

And, as Kirby points out, achieving a healthy, balanced lifestyle begins with children.

Kirby says one of the keys to the Future Fund’s success was its media partner, ctv.

She says a television presence was necessary because there was an obvious need for mass awareness and tv was the vehicle to create it.

Also, Kirby says, with a media partner such as ctv, Future Fund would get exposure without diverting too many dollars to advertising.

As it was, NutraSweet made a tv buy for the Future Fund scheme, which ran from May to November last year.

ctv weighed in with donated advertising time and cash. Future Fund also made a radio buy in Toronto and used direct mail to schools across the country.

Christine Ross, marketing manager, promotions, for ctv, says ctv worked up two or three ideas for NutraSweet when it came calling at the network, before it settled on the Future Fund.

Ross says the same principle that applies to all the network’s non-traditional advertising initiatives – drive the client’s business forward – also applied to Future Fund.

According to Kirby, The Future Fund had two components.

The first was the grassroots part launched during the World Championship of Basketball in Toronto and Hamilton last year.

Kirby says there were 34 Future Fund Hoop Shoot events held in Toronto and elsewhere and youngsters were invited to try their luck.

The shooter who scored the most consecutive baskets in a day won $500 that was sent to the school of his or her choice.

Kirby says this activity generated $15,000 or more for schools.

The second part of the program was a large essay contest open to students across Canada aged 13 to 23.

The contest ran from May 1 to Oct. 31.

To enter, students, either individually or in a group, had to submit a 450-word-or-less essay saying why a lifestyle balancing athletics and recreation with academics is important to students.

The essays were judged on creativity, writing skills and strength of argument.

First prize was $5,000, donated to the school of the student or students who submitted the best essay.

Six second prizes of $2,500 were awarded to the next best entries, and $1,000 each went to the following top 10 efforts.

The first prize was awarded during ctv’s showing of the Canadian Open golf championship.

Kirby says, all told, Future Fund gave away about $50,000 to schools athletics programs.

Otto Haenlein, managing director of NutraSweet’s Canadian operations, says from his Mississauga, Ont. office the first execution of Future Fund did what it set out to do, including putting some money into schools’ athletics programs; and getting his company the corporate recognition it was after.

As for the future of Future Fund, Haenlein says it is a matter of economics if the scheme returns.

It could be the economics are good.

ctv briefing material, says Future Fund, will be a ‘perennial event/ property on ctv which will likely grow to include other advertisers who are operating on the same communications strategy.’

In fact, Haenlein does say at the start of Future Fund it was discussed whether other advertisers besides NutraSweet should be brought in.