MIAMI: Don’t be afraid. The massive Cinnamon Toast Crunch mascot sitting directly behind home plate during Tuesday’s Marlins-Mets game was just a brand stunt and not some creepy cereal-obsessed fan or Mr. Met in disguise.
But Cinnamon Toast Crunch hasn’t exactly gone out of its way to clarify what on earth its mascot was doing at the ball game -- or how it got such good seats.
Mindy Murray, senior manager of brand experience and kid cereals for Cinnamon Toast Crunch parent General Mills, said the brand has not been responding to questions on social media about the mascot’s unexpected appearance. Instead it’s preferred to leave the entire occurrence a little “intriguing.”
“The more we explain ourselves, the more it turns into a traditional clichéd campaign,” said Murray. “By not explaining ourselves, it encourages social chatter. ‘What the heck did I just see and why is that there?’ We let the people talk it out amongst themselves.”
And talk they did. Many baseball fans on social media were pretty freaked out about the sighting.
Part of the brand’s strategy is to let the Cinnamoji -- the name of the mascot -- speak for itself.
“We try to identify moments or activities that don’t need a lot of extra promotions because they are so unique,” said Murray.
Rewinding a bit, the Cinnamoji was born three years ago, when Cinnamon Toast Crunch decided to modernize its mascot. There are a bunch of Cinnamoji mascots, but none of them have individual personalities, genders or names; they just have different facial expressions. Murray likens them to the Minions.
“They are all kind of a wacky big group,” she said.
Disturbingly, they are also cannibals.
“In our commercials, the Cinnamojis eat each other because they can’t resist the taste,” Murray explained.
Last year, Cinnamon Toast Crunch wanted to introduce its Cinnamoji mascots to consumers, but couldn’t do an experiential pop-up event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, no fans were allowed at sporting events for health and safety reasons, but the brand team realized that families were watching sports together during the pandemic more than ever.
“We thought this would be a huge TV opportunity, so we pitched an idea to Miami Marlins and Minnesota Twins, asking if we could put cardboard cutouts of our mascots in their stadium because there were no fans,” said Murray. “They said, ‘Yes.’”
Cinnamon Toast Crunch ended up placing Cinnamoji sections in both the Marlins' and Twins' left field stands for the rest of the Major League Baseball regular season. ESPN covered the news, and the Marlins especially loved the activation, said Murray.
“They said it brought a lot of joy to the team and brand, and they loved the pick-up they were getting in the media,” she said.
When the brand team started dreaming up its plan for 2021, its main aim was to outdo itself.
“True to brand personality, we never do the same thing twice; we are always spontaneous and unexpected,” said Murray. “So we worked with the Marlins [and discussed] how we could continue to bring this absurdity and silliness to the game with them. So this was a collaborative brainstorm we did with the Marlins.”
No PR firm assisted Cinnamon Toast Crunch on the effort.
The Marlins and Cinnamon Toast Crunch thought that placing the giant mascot behind home plate this week would be “fun, good TV time, show some good personality and if nothing else get a couple of laughs,” said Murray.
Cinnamon Toast Crunch also wanted to make sure its mascot wouldn’t be too distracting or “in the way” of fans actually trying to see the game in the stadium, so it moved fans seated behind the mascot so they could see the game.
“They were in on the gag and we provided Cinnamon Toast Crunch to those folks,” said Murray. “Some people showed their sample and talked about being part of the whole stunt on Twitter.”
Cinnamon Toast Crunch, attending Mets/Marlins game tonight, is handing out free cereal as a promotion. pic.twitter.com/553IQ4oCpn— Andy Slater (@AndySlater) September 7, 2021
Asked when consumers can expect to see the huge Cinnamoji mascots again, Murray said they could pop up anywhere, perhaps in another arena or stadium or on a random street.