The competitive landscape of college football bowl sponsorships has long been a battleground for brand visibility and consumer engagement. Many brands, such as Chick-fil-A, Goodyear, and Barstool Sports, sponsor bowl games, associating their names with America’s celebrated pastime. Yet despite strong efforts by these companies to capture attention, a wildly imaginative campaign by Pop-Tarts stole the show.
Pop-Tarts’ unforgettable brand exposure gave audiences an extraordinary spectacle. Their sponsorship exceeded typical branding exercises by introducing a giant edible Pop-Tart mascot to the winning team.
After full eccentric behavior on the sidelines during the game, the mascot, Strawberry, was slowly lowered into a giant toaster while triumphantly raising a sign that read, “Dreams really do come true.” Kansas State players celebrated their victory by consuming an edible version of the mascot after it popped out of the toaster—a clever twist that embodied the brand’s fun, nostalgic identity. Afterward, the event sparked discussion across social media platforms and gained extensive attention beyond college football audiences.
Users across social platforms raved about the event, giving more attention to Strawberry than the game itself. On X, for example, users posted tweets like, “Live every day like the pop-tart lived its last one,” and “This is my favorite bowl game ever. This pop-tart is hilarious. Every bowl game should have a mascot like pop-tart.”
The campaign’s success would earn Pop-Tarts’ parent company, Kellanova, an estimated $12.1 million in media exposure, Apex Marketing Group reported. Kellanova had previously sponsored the same game under Cheez-Its, another sub-brand. The Pop-Tarts Bowl’s success, however, heightened the game’s brand value by 25%, according to Sports Illustrated.
Sports events have long been fertile ground for brand marketing, but the Pop-Tarts Bowl took it a step further. The stunt addressed the hunger for new, experiential content while paying homage to the brand’s playful identity.
While sponsorships bowl games have traditionally focused on trophies, logos, and halftime mentions, Pop-Tarts demonstrated how fresh, out-of-the-toaster ideas and a touch of humor—can kindle a media firestorm that allows a brand’s message to be amplified well beyond the field.
Pop-Tarts’ marketing campaign is an inspired blueprint for future game sponsorships, proving that creativity, comedy, and originality can propel brand engagement to new heights. In future bowl games, sponsors should remember the 2023 Pop-Tarts Bowl as a golden example of how to best utilize their brand exposure.
Check out our blog on persuasion to learn more on how brands can win the hearts and minds of audiences.