Winning a gold medal at the Olympics is a great honor, but an even greater honor is to be featured on a box of Wheaties. General Mills is celebrating 100 years of Wheaties cereal with a series they call Century Boxes, featuring the last century’s greatest athletes. First in the series was Muhammad Ali. But how did Wheaties become so closely associated with the world’s greatest sports figures? It makes sense, as the cereal was developed to be a health food, a more nutritious whole-grain alternative to refined white flour.
At first, Wheaties wasn’t much of a hit in the market. However, the company came up with a novel concept to market the new cereal. It created a fictional character—Jack Armstrong, All-American Boy, an athlete and all-around good guy—to promote the product. He starred on a national radio program, and the new hero was featured on the cereal box.
Washburn Crosby tried one more thing to sell the cereal: a singing jingle. Sales soared after a barbershop quartet belted out the first-ever song in a radio commercial—with the simple lyrics: “Have you tried Wheaties? They’re whole wheat with all of the bran. Won’t you try Wheaties?” After that, the cereal became the most popular in America.
But the athletic run of the Wheaties box arose in 1934, when a picture of Lou Gehrig appeared on the back of the cereal box. Read how Wheaties has paid tribute to sports stars through the years at Smithsonian.
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