Food brands and celebrity endorsements: marketing magic?

With January seeing four celebrities spruiking four different food products in as many weeks, these new marketing campaigns signal the start of a competitive new year in 2013. Andrew Duffy reports.

From junk food to macadamias and table grapes, Aussie food brands have started 2013 with a number of prominent celebrity endorsements.

One of the first stars to join the trend was model and TV presenter Rachael Finch, who was named the new ambassador for Australian Summer Stone Fruit in early January.

Finch, a former Miss Universe Australia and Celebrity MasterChef runner up, will head up the new campaign which aims to encourage Australians to eat fresh local stone fruit.

Along with a collection of exercise tips, workout videos, and healthy eating suggestions, Finch's campaign aims to coax people into starting the new year with a healthy eating plan.

It also aims to support local fruit growers, who produce over 100,000 tonnes of nectarines, plums, apricots, and peaches a year.

“Food has always been a big part of my life,” Finch said in launching the campaign.

“Some of my family operates fruit and vegetable farms in North Queensland so supporting our local farmers is really important to me.”

If it works Finch's campaign will be a well-needed boost for the stone fruit industry, which has suffered from volatility and declining growth in recent years.

According to market research from IBIS World, Australia's stone fruit industry has posted -0.2 per cent growth over the last five years, with growers hit by extreme weather and uncertain economic conditions.

“This, combined with rising farm input prices and the growing market power of major retailers, has eroded the profitability of primary producers and industry revenue,” researchers said.

But Finch isn't the only one helping boost a struggling industry with a healthy new campaign.
January also saw swimming champion Libby Trinckett appointed as the face of a new advertising drive by Australian Table Grapes.

Riding off the back of Trickett's public profile, the industry collective is trying to boost demand by encouraging consumers to partake in a seven day eating plan.

The diet encourages people to view table grapes as a healthy alternative to other snacks, and incorporates the fruit into a range of different meals.

Along with the new campaign Australian Table Grapes Association CEO Jeff Scott has been talking up this year's harvest, claiming growers are expecting takings 10-15 percent larger than last year's crop.

Fellow swimming star Eamon Sullivan has also jumped on the bandwagon, joining Australian Macadamias for a food campaign targeting Australia day.

In launching the campaign Australian Macadamias pointed to research claiming only half of people aged 18-64 knew macadamias were a native fruit.

Sullivan said the advertising drive was the perfect opportunity for locals to brush up on their knowledge of the nut, which accounts for around $130 million of exports.

But the celebrity endorsements haven't all been about healthy eating and fresh produce.

Along with the grape, fruit, and macadamia campaigns launched in January, tennis star Maria Sharapova released her “entirely inappropriate” boutique lolly line Sugarpova.

The launch represented a sharp break in the way sports stars are usually marketed to the public, with Sharapova spruiking the new line to young girls who “crave” sugary products.

“My earliest memory of candy is being a little girl back in Russia and asking my parents for a lollipop after a good practice on the tennis court,” Sharapova says in the product's promotional material.

“It was that little treat that I looked forward to.”

The lollies, which contain a whopping 21 grams of sugar per serving, raised eyebrows among health experts, with the marketing drive in stark contrast to the attitudes of most Aussie athletes.

In a paper published last year researchers at the University of Sydney claimed most elite athletes were opposed to the idea of using their celebrity to endorse junk food, and supported using their profile to promote healthier lifestyles.

“Most respondents supported a role for athletes in promoting physical activity and obesity prevention, and disagreed that athletes should promote unhealthy foods and alcohol,” the study said.

Nevertheless Sharapova's brand has already taken hold in the US and UK, and is unlikely to face the same challenges that threaten the viability of local fruit growers.

With January seeing four major advertising drives launched in as many weeks these campaigns signal the start of a competitive new year in 2013.

But which brands come out on top, and by how far, remains to be seen.

Image: www.news.com.au


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