Swimming: Food Bamk gets Phelps’ cereal
By C.W. Nevius
San Francisco Chronicle
SAN FRANCISCO ó The celebrated marijuana controversy surrounding Olympic superstar swimmer Michael Phelps has turned out to benefit the San Francisco Food Bank.
Soon after a British newspaper published a photo of what appeared to be Phelps smoking marijuana, Kellogg’s announced it would not renew the swimmer’s endorsement contract ó never mind the eight gold medals he won at the Beijing Olympics.
Apparently, that left only one problem: what to do with the boxes of Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes bearing Phelps’ toothy grin. The answer seemed pretty clear two weeks ago when the local Food Bank took delivery of nearly 2 tons of the cereal.
“So, though Kellogg’s and their star spokesman hit a patch of rough water, San Francisco’s hungry just got thrown a life preserver,” Food Bank spokeswoman Gayle Keck wrote in an e-mail.
The boxes flew off the shelves, but the food bank is keeping a few as souvenirs.
Although it was considered a coup when the cereal company snapped up Phelps ahead of General Mills’ popular Wheaties, Kellogg’s was spooked in February when the picture appeared of Phelps puffing on a bong at a college party.
Although companies like Subway and Speedo felt Phelps deserved a second chance, Kellogg’s issued a statement: “Michael’s most recent behavior is not consistent with the image of Kellogg. His contract expires at the end of February and we have made a decision not to extend his contract.”
Some customers saw that statement as sanctimonious. Phelps shouldn’t have been smoking marijuana, they said, but compared to the horrible behavior shown by some professional athletes, he was hardly a dangerous criminal.
“They were trying to make a PR statement, but it rang hollow,” said Bob Dorfman, executive creative director at San Francisco’s Baker Street Advertising.
In a way, jokes Dorfman, Kellogg’s decision is a little questionable: “I always thought cereal was the ultimate munchie food,” he said.
The sudden appearance of about 3,800 pounds of flakes would indicate that someone was trying to dump some unwanted stock.
“It seems that way,” Ash said. “We do regularly see products with packages that are no longer desirable.”
The Food Bank, of course, is delighted. With the downturn in the economy, donations of packaged foods are down. It is also important, Ash says, that the cereal company donated to the hungry rather than simply throwing the product away.
As for those who use the Food Bank, few seem troubled by Phelps’ marijuana problems.
“The boxes have kind of flown off the shelves,” Ash said.