Wheaties have created in-house retro ads, featuring the late bowling veteran, Andy Varipapa.
Breakfast cereal Wheaties is better known for partnering with well-known sports personalities like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. But in its latest campaign, it is spotlighting a professional bowler who was kingpin back in the mid-twentieth century.
Andy Varipapa, died in 1984, but he was known as much for his trick-shot making as his winning. Ads featuring vintage footage of Varipapa ran during a Professional Bowlers Association event that will begin airing on ESPN on Sunday.
The ads were created in-house by brand owner General Mills. They are part of Wheaties sponsorship campaign for a PBA tournament series that takes place in Maine. Wheaties are sponsoring one of the competing teams, whose members will wear Wheaties bowling shirts, alongside other brands such as Geico and Barbasol, who will also be sponsoring teams.
The series contains six 15-second spots. Footage from 1948 of the bowler’s “Grandpa Strength” represents the brand – dubbed as the “breakfast of champions” – with his trick shots. In one spot, a retro American voiceover says: “Grandpa wasn’t allergic to cats or dust or pollen. He was allergic to whiners and losing”. In another: “Grandpa proved his athleticism with trophies on the mantle, not by dancing around like a showboater. Nah, grandpa only danced with Grandma.”
According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, bowling is the top participation sport in America – outside of fitness activities – with about 46.2 million people bowling at least once in a year.
Varipapa was born in 1891 in Cafizzi, Italy, and came to New York at the age of 11. He was a trailblazer and good-will ambassador of his sport and travelled around the US at the height of his career in the 1930s and 1940s, giving clinics and exhibitions. The New York Times had described him as “popular for his trick shots as well as his normal prowess”.
Varipapa’s long list of bowling feats included the highest ten-year American Bowling Congress average and Bowler of the Year in 1948. He was elected into the American Bowling Congress Hall of Fame in 1957 and was also given the PBA award for bowling contributions in 1966.
“In researching the history of bowling, there was one guy above all else who exhibited the spirit of a champion that Wheaties has always admired and applauded, and so he became our hero,” said General Mills Chief Creative Officer, Michael Fanuele.