The 11 Things You Didn’t Know About Wheaties
Wheaties has been around for nearly 90 years, but when did they start putting athletes on the cover?
- By Jim Morrison
- Smithsonian.com, August 17, 2012
(Courtesy of General Mills)
In 1927, Knox Reeves, a Minnesota advertising executive, needed to a slogan to go on a billboard for Wheaties, then a fledgling cereal brand that sponsored the radio broadcasts of the Minneapolis Millers, a minor league baseball team.
Reeves sketched a Wheaties box, paused, and then wrote: "Wheaties-The Breakfast of Champions".
That began one of the iconic and enduring marriages between sports and product. Soon, nearly 100 radio stations were carrying Wheaties-sponsored broadcasts of minor league baseball. So it was natural in 1934 to put Triple Crown-winner Lou Gehrig, pictured finishing a powerful swing and seemingly watching the ball fly out of the park, on the back of a Wheaties box. By the 1939 All-Star game, 46 of the 51 players had endorsed the cereal.
In the decades that have followed, one legendary athlete after another has graced the orange box, names like Ted Williams, Larry Bird, Bob Feller, Ervin "Magic" Johnson, Dan Marino, Lee Trevino and Chris Evert Lloyd. The choices are a barometer on the country's fascination with sport. While baseball players dominated the early years, stars from other sports including football, basketball and eventually women's soccer and snowboarding become part of the mix, the face of a new brand of champion. The cover above is the latest Wheaties box, with Olympians Michael Phelps and Misty May-Treanor gracing the cereal aisle.
What follows are 11 things we bet you didn't know about Wheaties boxes: