By Barry Janoff
November 14, 2013: In 1976, the Kellogg Company began working with athletes through its support of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
It was four years after that, during the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid, NY, when one of the most iconic events in Olympic history took place.
The USA Men's Hockey Team came in with a strong team, albeit one composed of amateur and college players. They were not expected to defeat more heavily favored teams, including those from the Soviet Union, Sweden or Czechoslovakia.
Instead, under the guidance of head coach Herb Brooks, the team defeated the Soviet Union squad in what is ironically known as the "Miracle on Ice" game, then ultimately topped Finland for the gold medal.
The golden journey of the 1980 USA Men's Hockey Team was made into a TV movie in 1981, Miracle on Ice; in 2004, Disney released in theaters, Miracle. Perhaps the moment that best defines the event is announcer Al Michaels yelling, "Do you believe in miracles!"
This year, Kellogg's has among its roster of Olympic athletes, hopefuls and legends Jim Craig, who was the goaltender for the Miracle on Ice squad.
One of Kellogg's prime objectives is to support the athletes as they seek a spot in the Winter Games in Sochi this February. Another is to engage consumers to interact with Team Kellogg's members with the goal of providing two million breakfasts to kids in need.
Team Kellogg's includes Gretchen Bleiler (snowboarding), Meryl Davis and Charlie White (ice dancing), Sarah Hendrickson (ski jumping), Torin Yater-Wallace (freeskiing), Amy Purdy (Paralympic snowboarding) and Noelle Pikus-Pace (skeleton); and co-captains and legends Craig (hockey) and Kristi Yamaguchi (figure skating).
A multi-media campaign is being driven by the organic mantra, "From Great Starts Come Great Things," which ties Kellogg's place as a breakfast giant with the unique, yet somewhat similar, ways in which Olympic athletes and hopefuls got their start. The videos tie in with a push via Twitter in which Kellogg's will donate upward of two million breakfasts. (Details here.)
Craig now lives in Massachusetts, where he is a marketing coach and a motivational speaker. He travels throughout the U.S. delivering motivational talks to major companies such as Coca-Cola, Allstate and The Disney Co. He also has authored Gold Medal Strategies For Success (2011, Wiley & Sons) with Don Yaeger.
NYSportsJournalism spoke with Craig at a Kellogg's event in New York about the 2014 Winter Games and his place in Olympic history.
NYSportsJournalism.com: A key part of what you are doing prior the Winter Games is working as a spokesman for Kellogg's and their "Great Starts" effort. How important is if for you and for the 1980 U.S. hockey team to be an inspirational part of Olympic history and to be someone who inspires others?
Jim Craig: For me, having achieved my dream of being in the Olympics, and then winning a gold, I understand something about what these athletes are working for and what they are trying to achieve. Working with Kellogg's 'Great Starts' is a great platform to help raise awareness for these athletes [on Team Kellogg's] and also to raise awareness among people about kids who need help to begin to achieve their own dreams with Kellogg's seeking to provide two million breakfasts to kids in need.
NYSJ: The 1980 Winter Games were more than 30 years ago, so what is it like to be working with and inspiring athletes who might not even have been born when the 'Miracle on Ice' team made history?
JC: [Laughs.] I guess that makes me a part of living history. A lot of kids know me through the Miracle on Ice and Miracle movies. (Editor's note: In the films, Craig was portrayed, respectively, by Steve Guttenberg and Eddie Cahill.) Young athletes who know the history of the Olympics or know sports know about our hockey team and maybe about the role I played. If that is part of what inspires them, to know that I was part of a team that came together to achieve their goals together, it makes me feel good.
NYSJ: This is a Kellogg's-sponsored campaign, so I have to ask: What did you have for breakfast?
JC: [Laughs.] Kellogg's cereal! But I don't remember which one.
"They are supporting not only the Games but the athletes, many of whom really need the backing of companies such as Kellogg's to keep training and traveling."
NYSJ: How important is it for a company such as Kellogg's to not only be an official partner with the USOC but to also support U.S. athletes?
JC: It is an unbelievable alliance on a number of levels. They are supporting not only the Games but the athletes, many of whom really need the backing of companies such as Kellogg's to keep training and traveling and doing what it takes to try to earn a spot in the Olympics. When you look at the marketing and sponsorship money that Kellogg's and other Team USA partners bring to the table, how much would the USOC not be able to do without their support. Not just in getting athletes onto teams and getting athletes and teams to the Games, but helping to raise awareness for the Olympics in the U.S.
NYSJ: How effective do you think Kellogg's initiative will be in working with athletes help raise awareness about hunger in America?
JC: Very effective. This is a situation that impacts so many people and kids. So if consumers see athletes associating themselves with this cause, it can only help to build awareness and work toward alleviating the problem of hunger in America. Their campaign to have people view the personal videos of members of Team Kellogg's and to use Twitter to generate responses that could lead to two million breakfasts being donated should have a great response. (Details here.)
NYSJ: The last time the Winter Olympics were held in the U.S. was in 2002 in Salt Lake City, and the last Summer Games were 1996 in Atlanta. Will we see the Olympics in the U.S. again?
JC: I would like to see that happen. I would like the USOC to do everything they can to make that happen. Having he Olympic Games on U.S. soil is very important to the fabric our of kids, to see it first-hand. And it is important for our athletes to be involved in the Olympics in their own country. To be able to travel to venues in the U.S. large and small and talk to people about the Games in the U.S. That is something that every Olympic athlete should experience.
NYSJ: What do you anticipate for the 2014 Games in Sochi?
JC: Every Olympic Games creates its own magic. Something will come out of the Olympics that will be magical, be it an athlete or a team or an event. Something special will happen. The hockey competition in 2010 in Vancouver was amazing, so perhaps the event is poised for something like that to happen again.
NYSJ: The U.S. hockey team that you were part of remains an important part of sports and Olympic history. What does it mean to you more than 30 years later?
JC: People use that as an inspiration, not that it was one athlete or even a team, but that the U.S. won. We were considered to be underdogs, but we set our minds to something and overcame the odds. That is something that continues to resonate with young people today, not just those kids who are athletes, but young people who want to make more out of their lives. So if that is our legacy, it is a good one.
NYSJ: You are working with Kristi Yamaguchi for Kellogg's, and she has had a great career as a skater. If you are in goal and she's skating at you with a stick and a puck, does she score?
JC: [Laughs.] She shoots and she scores!
Q&A: Kellogg's A Cereal Thriller In 2014 Winter Olympics Marketing
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