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CELEBRATING CHAMPIONS - IN AND OUT OF THE RING
THE NESTLÚ PURINA AD SERIES AWARDED "BEST OF SHOW" CONNECTS WITH THE COMPETITIVE SPIRIT THAT DRIVES DOG BREEDERS AND ENTHUSIASTS TO ACHIEVE THEIR BEST.
It's difficult to appreciate the dedication, determination and sacrifice demanded of top dog breeders, trainers and other enthusiasts. Long, grueling days at shows spread across the country. Meticulous grooming and care of their canine contenders. Unremitting training to keep competition skills sharp. Being a dog breeder involves more than an occasional romp in the show ring - it's a way of life.

NestlÚ Purina has long been a major force in the dog breeding world, providing top-quality nutrition for many of the leading dogs in the country as well as dedicated breeder support. NestlÚ Purina staff members develop a strong bond with breeders and their kennels, tracking dogs' performances and offering nutrition advice as needed. It was this deep appreciation and understanding of the breeder's life and passion that inspired NestlÚ Purina and Colle + McVoy, their Minneapolis marketing communications agency responsible for breeder communications, to develop the award-winning Blue Ribbon Chosen By Champions ad campaign.

INFLUENTIAL MARKET SEGMENT

Top dog breeders who participate in conformation shows were the target of this ad campaign. While this group constitutes less than a third of the overall U.S. breeders' market, they are a highly influential segment. Whether breeders show their dogs or not, they're all curious about what it takes to raise champions, including diet. Plus, the general public buying dogs from top kennels are highly influenced by their breeders' food choice for the dogs.

"Having a championship dog is something most breeders spend their lives working towards," says Jody Estensen, Purina account management supervisor at Colle + McVoy. "While breeders may raise two or three litters per year, they could have just one or two champions during their careers. It takes real dedication to keep at it. It's their competitive spirit that keeps them looking for an edge in the show ring."

Many top show dogs in the United States are fed Purina diets. Competitors include several other leading dog food companies as well as some specialty brands.

"The goal of this ad campaign was to reach the competitive-minded dog owners and tie into their aspirations to achieve the highest recognition for their dogs," says Annette Bertelsen, Colle + McVoy creative director on the NestlÚ Purina account. "Many of the very top dogs in the country are already being fed Purina diets. We wanted to communicate how NestlÚ Purina is a part of the top winners' success."

The Chosen By Champions tagline has been part of NestlÚ Purina breeder communications for several years. "We took this ongoing theme and changed the focus from conventional testimonials to universal truths about the sport," Bertelsen notes. "We really wanted to zero in on the teamwork between the dog and the handler."

A FRESH APPROACH

Greg Wetzel, Colle + McVoy art director for the project, sought a fresh way to extend the connection between NestlÚ Purina diets, championship dogs and the larger breeder audience that also shows dogs but may not always be recognized in the winner circle.

"We wanted this group to know that NestlÚ Purina appreciates what they go through to compete," says Wetzel. "Our message needed to convey an understanding of the show world and how NestlÚ Purina helps breeders achieve their best."

To truly familiarize themselves, a Colle + McVoy crew hit the road, attending a major AKC conformation show and a field trial for sporting dogs. The events gave agency staff the insight needed to capture the breeder's show life experience.

"We saw the long, grueling days that breeders and dog enthusiasts put in at these shows," Wetzel says. "They often show more than one dog throughout the event, so there are lots of behind-the-scenes preparations, as well as downtime while they're waiting to enter the ring. It's difficult to appreciate what all goes on at these shows until you experience it. It's not an easy life."

ADS CONNECT ON SEVERAL LEVELS

Colle + McVoy captured vignettes of the breeder show experience through a series of photos featured in the ads. On-site photos captured handlers and their dogs in the show ring, completing pre-competition preparations and during downtime.

"We tried to show that it's about all the things you do outside of the ring that make you a champion in the ring," Wetzel explains. "Our goal was to show that breeders who show dogs really work at what they do and should be recognized for it. They don't all live in the spotlight, but they all go through the work."

Headlines capturing the essence of the show ring life included:
  • Champions don't seek the spotlight. It seeks them.
  • Champions know giving it your all is a good place to start.
  • Champions know luck has zilch to do with it.
  • Champions know winning is a lifestyle decision.
  • Champions don't need to be told it's showtime.
  • Champions do sweat the small stuff.
  • Champions know greatness is not measured in size.


Each ad featured a large color photo of the handler and dog, flanked by a subtle blue ribbon carrying the headline and identifying information about the dog, past honors, handler, owner, breeder and diet.

As part of the campaign development process, feedback was gathered from members of the NestlÚ Purina ambassadors group, some 100 top breeders and trainers who feed NestlÚ Purina diets to their dogs and provide support at conformation shows, seminars and exhibitions. The group also acts as a sounding board for breeder communications to make sure messages hit the mark.

The campaign launched in July 2003 in a broad cross section of breeder publications and continues running throughout 2004.

POSITIVE RESULTS

Since the breeder market segment falls within overall sales for NestlÚ Purina dog food brands, it's difficult to isolate direct sales results from this campaign. However, among the top 100 show dogs in the country, the number fed NestlÚ Purina diets has risen by several percentage points since the campaign began.

"NestlÚ Purina really understands the breeder audience and has great respect for the work they do," Estensen notes. "Although presented subtly, that message comes across loud and clear with this ad campaign." AM

Written in the strictest confidence by Lois Kocon of Colle + McVoy.s


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