One of the many interesting outcomes of winning an Olympic medal is the sudden rush of fame athletes experience. With their faces plastered across the internet, it’s hard to miss images of medalists. Yet another way the general public connects with Olympians is through their images on cereal boxes. The Kellogg brothers made the connection between eating cereal and healthy living and by extension athleticism back in the 1890s. Starting in the mid-20th century, both General Mills’ Wheaties and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes have featured Olympians as well as other famous U.S. atheletes on their boxes.
The Kellogg’s company is a sponsor of Team Kellogg’s comprised of both U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Gymnast Jordyn Wieber was one of several athletes to appear on boxes in the lead up to the 2012 Olympics. Earlier this month, Kellogg’s revealed a Corn Flakes box featuring gymnast Gabby Douglas who helped Team U.S.A. win gold in the gymnastics Women’s Team final on July 31 and won All-Around Individual gold on August 2. Gabby and her teammates are featured on another Corn Flakes box as well. Other notable Olympic Corn Flakes boxes include images of figure skater Scott Hamilton in 1984, speed skater Bonnie Blair in 1992 and 1994, and the 1992 U.S. Men’s Basketball team nicknamed the Dream Team. After the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, Australia, track stars Maurice Greene along with swimmer Lenny Krayzelburg appeared on Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes boxes. Kellogg’s Crispix featured swimmer Jenny Thompson who earned 12 medals over the course of three Olympics. In 2008 Michael Phelps appeared on Corn Flakes boxes after winning eight gold medals in swimming in Beijing.
Kellogg’s competitor for Olympic gold is General Mills whose Wheaties Brand has been “The Breakfast of Champions” for more than 75 years. Starting in 1934 Wheaties began featuring athletes on their boxes with baseball great Lou Gehrig; interestingly, Gehrig appeared on the back of the box, not the front. Athletes moved to the front of the boxes in 1958 with Olympic pole vaulter Bob Richards who had won gold in the sport in 1952 and 1956. In 1977 Bruce Jenner appeared on Wheaties boxes and went on to be a company spokesman. Jenner, who won gold in the men’s decathlon in Montreal in 1976, is familiar to followers of reality TV for his appearances on “Keeping up with the Khardasians.” Gymnast Mary Lou Retton appeared on boxes in 1984 after her gold, silver, and bronze medals in women’s gymnastics in the 1984 Los Angeles games. 1996 saw track and field star Michael Johnson adorn Wheaties boxes with gold medal wins in the men’s 200 and 400 meter races. In 2010 two-time gold medalist Shaun White appeared on the box front performing one of his trademark moves from the halfpipe.
Other products endorsed by or featuring Olympic athletes include Visa, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, Nike, and AT&T. While the International Olympic Committee strictly enforces rules regarding endorsements during the Games, once the torch is passed to Rio on Sunday night, medalists and their fans can expect to see more commercial possibilities in pursuit of the Olympic motto of “faster, higher, stronger.”