Cheerios salutes Canada’s food bank workers

Who: General Mills Canada and Cossette, with animation from Wonderlust.

What: “Cheer for the food banks frontline,” a new campaign supporting food banks and their frontline workers. It also includes a $500,000 cash donation from Cheerios, as well as $600,000 worth of food products from General Mills.

When & Where: The bilingual campaign is breaking this week across TV, digital and social channels including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

Why: An estimated one in eight Canadians rely on food banks, but that number is expected to skyrocket during the COVID crisis. Food Banks Canada says that usage spiked by 28% during the 2008-09 recession, and there could be an increase of as much as 50% in the current crisis.

The campaign is using advertising time and space originally earmarked for Cheerios’ efforts around this summer’s (now postponed) Tokyo Games. For the past few Olympics, going back to Vancouver 2010, General Mills has run sponsorship activations for its Cheerios brand around cheering for Canada’s Olympic heroes. But with the Olympics cancelled and a health and economic crisis gripping the nation, General Mills found new heroes to cheer for.

How: An animated spot called “Murray the Brave” debuted this week, telling the story of one of the people working in Canada’s food banks. Told entirely in rhyme (“while the people sank safely into their couches/Murray sorted packages and pouches”), the spot was inspired by an actual food bank worker.

The work was created entirely from scratch, with not a single iPhone video in sight. That’s something of a novelty right now, with the production industry at a standstill and marketers forced to rely on either stock footage or amateur video.

The campaign includes a series of videos featuring prominent Canadian Olympians Andre De Grasse (athletics), Penny Oleksiak (swimming), Rosie MacLennan (gymnastics), Matt Berger (skateboarding) and Jennifer Abel (diving). In each video, one of the Olympians will showcase a Cheerios box featuring the photo and personal story of a food bank worker.

The athletes are featured on Olympic-themed Cheerios boxes currently arriving on grocery shelves, because the food company works with long lead times for major initiatives.

And we quote: “We are pivoting our original plan from helping Canadians to cheer on our Olympic athletes, to those same Olympic athletes cheering on Canadians who are pushing themselves to help their communities in this time of tremendous need.” —Fawad Farrukh, business unit director of  cereal, General Mills Canada 

Chris Powell