Mars, Inc. credits its long-running NFL partnership with playing a key role in driving double-digit sales growth for M&M’s and Snickers.  

The candy giant uses the tie to drive preference and sales across the chocolate and non-chocolate confectionary categories including Snickers, M&M’s, Twix, Skittles and Starburst.

“Mars has a history of great results with our NFL partnership, particularly at the Super Bowl,” said William Clements, Mars Chocolate North America vice president of sponsorships and sports marketing.

Clements points to Skittles as an example. The chewy candy gained 1.91 billion earned media impressions during the 2015 Super Bowl and was the third most talked about brand during the game.

Skittles—which joined the NFL partnership in 2014—posted an 11.32 percent increase in sales in the year-ended Oct. 4, 2015, per IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm.

Snickers also saw positive results at the Super Bowl. The chocolate bar gained 1.5 billion impressions from its Brady Bunch-themed TV spot, the winner of the inaugural Super Clio advertising award. The ad was the second most shared ad during the game, according to Mars.

Sales of M&M’s 3.5 ounce bars rose 9.17 percent in the year-ended Oct. 4, easily exceeding the 3.21 percent increase in the overall chocolate candy category, per IRI.

In edited comments below, Clements discusses Mars’ NFL and NASCAR partnerships, new activation programs for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, and more.

On the thinking behind the NFL
The NFL is more popular than ever, and it taps into the broader culture in ways few things can. Our marketing objective behind the NFL partnership is to increase our share to reach the 317 million household snacking occasions that occur during the NFL regular season, playoffs and Super Bowl.

We use this enormous platform to deliver rich, relevant messages to consumers, and make our brands an integral part of the game day experience.

On the evolution of the NFL partnership
The NFL continues to grow – and smart sponsors look for strategic ways to evolve with it. Each year we try to raise our game with new exciting NFL-themed displays, custom packaging, breakthrough consumer promotions and compelling media. But you also need to adapt with your consumers.

Two great examples of our brand activations are fantasy football and social media. Ten years ago, those areas were a blip on the radar. But now the second screen and fantasy are critical parts of any game day. We saw the potential early, so we prioritized social content and our connection to fantasy to create deeper in-roads with NFL fans.

On activating the 2016 Super Bowl
With Super Bowl 50 just months away, 2016 will be the biggest NFL season yet. And we wanted to implement activations that feel just as big.

We recently kicked off a variety of in-store sweepstakes and instant-win promotions across multiple Mars brands backed by national displays, thousands of prizes and custom packaging. We also are remaining active all season long with media partnerships and activations involving fantasy football, digital media, PR and social media content.

On using NASCAR to promote M&M’s Crispy
NASCAR is a major investment for M&M’s and Mars and gives us the opportunity to reach a passionate fan base who love our products.

Every season, we try to make our NASCAR activation an extension of our core marketing activities, which for 2015 is the return of the wildly popular M&M’s Crispy, along with our summer movies platform. Not only did we implement a custom M&M’s Crispy paint theme on the No. 18 M&M’s Crispy Toyota throughout the season, M&M’s celebrated the product’s return with a short video homage to the legendary NASCAR-themed movie Days of Thunder – with a Crispy twist.