Totino’s Targets Teens With X-Games Web Docs

NEW YORK Den and Ken Buongiorno are hardly household names, but Totino’s is banking on the New Jersey action-sports fans to help the brand reach teenagers.

The General Mills snack brand is using its sponsorship of the ESPN Winter X-Games 12, which runs from Jan. 24-27, to launch a campaign that centers on a series of 18 Web videos of the brothers during their cross-country trip from the Garden State to Aspen, Colo., where the X-Games are being held.

While the “Crash the Winter X-Games” campaign includes a TV spot and print, it is mainly a digital effort designed to reach the 13-17-year-old male demographic.

Last year, Totino’s took a more traditional approach, running TV and print ads that drove users to a section of ESPN.com to vote on their favorite “mega moments” and enter a sweepstakes.

Rather than revisit that strategy, Totino’s this year decided to build its own online hub. The client is devoting over half of the undisclosed campaign budget to digital initiatives, according to Justin Conzemius, marketing manager at Totino’s.

“Our challenge is to bring all the consumers to truly crash the Winter X-Games,” he said. “We can’t fly 85 million teenagers to Aspen. We thought this was the best way to really get everyone to feel like they’re getting the insider look.”

This marks the second year Totino’s has courted teens as a secondary market to its main target: mothers. While its primary marketing is mostly traditional, it could not replicate that to reach the younger demographic, Conzemius said.

“The tone is very different,” he said. “You can’t be too overt or they’ll call you out on it. We’ve tried to be authentic and subtle.”

Publicis Modem & Dialog East created the campaign. It found the Buongiorno brothers through their friend, snowboard star Danny Kass. Publicis dispatched a production crew to shoot the Buongiornos’ trip over five days.

In one clip, the brothers visit a skate park in Denver, along with a microwave on wheels to cook up some Totino’s pizza rolls. In most clips, the brothers mention the pizza rolls or eat them. The agency debated how much of a part the product should play, eventually deciding its inclusion was fairly unobtrusive.

“They don’t want their brands to lecture them, but they want their brands to entertain them,” said Rob Feakins, president and chief creative officer of Publicis’ New York office. “We do [the product messaging] in a much more natural, inviting way.”

The brand hopes to spur audience participation through a series of online polls. One asks users to vote for what the brothers should do at the X-Games. Choices include “use a pick-up line on a famous female snowboarder” and “collect athletes autographs on their bodies.” Other features of the site include a “crash-up” area to combine snowboarding video clips.

Totino’s also hopes to spur sales by offering digital music downloads that require a Totino’s proof of purchase. Other features are unlocked with purchase codes, including the ability to download video mash-ups. Totino’s is also running an online sweepstakes, through ePrize, which offers X-Games paraphernalia.