New product rollouts and increased competition are driving new sponsorship activity on behalf of energy and nutrition bars.

Sales of energy and nutrition bars grew roughly 52 percent from 2005 through 2010 to total $857 million in 2010, according to Mintel, a market research firm.

And the category is expected to maintain its upward momentum. Driven in part by the growing popularity of health and wellness-related products, Mintel expects sales of energy and nutrition bars to grow by 7.2 percent to 9.5 percent annually through 2015.

That competition has prompted a handful of recent deals ranging from fashion shows to National Governing Bodies.

Case in point: General Mills, Inc. this year inked a new partnership with Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City on behalf of its Fiber One nutrition bar.

Fiber One is leveraging the Sept. 8-13 fashion show with the Great Taste Giveaway that dangles a trip to the February 2012 event, among other prizes.

Other recent deals include PowerBar Inc., which earlier this year inked a new partnership with USA Water Polo; and Clif Bar & Co., which has come on board as a new sponsor of the Oct. 22-23 Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston.

Clif Bar
Clif Bar & Co.
1451 66th St.
Emeryville, CA 94608

Jeff Johnson, director of brand experience

Sponsorship/Activation Strategy: The maker of Clif and Luna-branded bars, shots, gels, drinks and other nutritional products has historically eschewed traditional media in favor of grassroots endurance sports as a platform to sample product. “Our category is largely driven by trial, conversion and driving consumers to retail,” said Johnson. The company is placing more focus on activating ties to enhance the race experience. “The mentality of race participants has changed. They want to be entertained. T-shirts are not good enough, which has placed more pressure on event organizers and sponsors to add entertainment elements.” The company this year has teamed with retail partners to sell product at events. “It’s not from a revenue-driving standpoint, but a recognition that runners go to expos to buy product for the following day’s event,” said Johnson. Clif Bar plans to expand the sales initiative in 2012, he said.

Current Deals: Clif Bar: American River 50 Mile Endurance Run presented by Moeben, Sacramento, Calif.; Amgen Tour of California; Eugene Marathon, Ore.; Feed the Children; Honda Los Angeles Marathon presented by K-Swiss; Kaiser Permanente Triathlon presented by Herbalife; Kelly Benefit Strategies Pro Cycling Team; Long Beach Int’l City Bank Marathon & Half Marathon; Nation’s Triathlon, Washington, D.C.; New Balance Falmouth Road Race, Mass.; Ocala Marathon, Fla.; Operation Gratitude; Reno-Tahoe Open at Montreaux, PGA Tour event; University of Denver Athletics; Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend presented by CIGNA. Clif Kid: Carlsbad 5000 5K, Calif. Luna Bar: Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend presented by Lady Footlocker.

Additional Comments: Sixteen field marketing managers spearhead ties. Activates endurance sports events with the Clif Bar pace team. Luna bar also sponsors fashion shows and other female-centric events.

Small Planet Foods, Inc.
719 Metcalf St.
Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284

Michele Meyer, president

Sponsorship/Activation Strategy: General Mills, Inc. unit sponsors art festivals, music venues and other local events to sample its fruit, nut and spice bars. Small Planet typically takes a “one for all” approach to event marketing by sponsoring on behalf of Lärabar and its two other products: Cascadian Farm Organic cereal and Muir Glen Organic tomato products. For example, the three brands last year shared booth space at Boston’s Head of the Charles Regatta; Lärabar and Cascadian Farm will sponsor the event in 2011.  

Current Deals: Presenting: Climb for Sudan. Cosponsor: Atlanta Arts Festival; Art in the Park, Marietta, Ga.; Head of the Charles Regatta, Boston; Lake Harriet Music Series, Minneapolis; Norcross Arts Fest, Ga.; Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival presented by First Tech Credit Union; Taste of Atlanta.

Additional Comments: Field marketing managers spearhead deals.

PowerBar Inc.
800 N. Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91203

Natalie Ferguson, sports marketing manager

Sponsorship/Activation Strategy: Nestle S.A. unit sponsors national and international running events as a platform to sample product and build credibility for its energy bars and other nutritional supplements. For example, activates three-year-old partnership with action sport’s Dew Tour by sampling product in athlete lounges and event staging areas. The brand also activates the Dew Tour with two content programs: The PowerBar Performance of the Year award and presenting sponsorship of First Look, a video that highlights athletes’ take on new competition courses. Inked in-kind tie in 2011 with USA Water Polo.

Current Deals: Boston Marathon; Cornell University Athletics; Dew Tour; Dick’s Sporting Goods Bolder Boulder 10K; ING New York City Marathon; Leukemia & Lymphoma Society; Tour de France; University of California-Berkley Athletics; University of Notre Dame Athletics; USA Water Polo; West Coast Conference; Wharf to Wharf race presented by Palo Alto Medical Foundation Sutter Maternity & Surgery Center; Santa Cruz, Calif.; Workday Devil Mountain Run, Danville, Calif.; 20-plus Ironman events in the U.S. and abroad.  

Additional Comments: This year rolled out co-branded energy bar around its partnership with World Triathlon Corp. and the Athleta Iron Girl Event Series.  PowerBar also has leveraged its WTC partnership to develop Ironman-branded sports drinks and other products.

Abbott Nutrition
625 Cleveland Ave.
Columbus, OH 43215

Tobe Cohen, divisional vice president and general manager, global performance nutrition

Sponsorship/Activation Strategy: Abbott Laboratories division primarily sponsors art, music and film-related events to support its ‘Live-Create’ brand positioning for ZonePerfect nutrition bars. Typically activates with product sampling and music content. For example, ZonePerfect has leveraged Baltimore’s Artscape festival by hosting music performances at its on-site booth. The company also uses Artscape and other events to distribute coupons.

Current Deals: Artscape, Baltimore; Atlanta Dogwood Festival; Bumbershoot, Seattle’s Music & Arts Festival; Chicago Blues Festival; VH1 Save the Music.

Additional Comments: Dropped several major ties over the past two years including the Los Angeles Film Festival and South by Southwest Music & Film Festival. Launched sweet & salty nutrition bars earlier his year; the company promoted the products by distributing coupons through ZonePerfect’s Facebook page. Columbus, Ohio-based ad agency Engauge activates ties.