If you drank the same soda as Mean Joe Greene, would you be able to strike fear into the hearts of 1970s NFL quarterbacks, too?
It’s doubtful, but that certainly didn’t stop Pittsburgh sports stars from getting their fair share of product endorsements over the years. From Jaromir Jagr’s peanut butter to Darius Kasparaitis’ pickles — both of which were produced by the same company, PLB Sports — here are a few of our favorites.
‘Hey kid, catch!’
There’s no question that when you think of Pittsburgh sports endorsements, this commercial comes to mind:
According to Coca-Cola’s website, Greene struggled to deliver the commercial’s payoff line — “Hey kid, catch!” — after chugging a 16-ounce bottle of soda. In fact, all in all, Greene drank more than 2 gallons of Coke during the shoot for the 1979 commercial.
Steelers Hall of Fame defensive tackle “Mean” Joe Greene, left, is reunited with actor Tommy Okon at Heinz Field in 2009 for the 30th anniversary of their iconic TV ad for Coca-Cola.
Two-time world champion catcher Manny Sanguillén has his own concession stand, Manny’s BBQ, at PNC Park, where he can often be found sitting, talking with fans and signing autographs.
Former Pittsburgh Pirates player Manny Sanguillen leaves “Manny’s BBQ” with his grandson Isaiah in the seventh inning at PNC Park April 4, 2005.
Robinson-based PLB Sports has had a hand in not just some of the most recognizable athlete-endorsed foods — their top all-time seller is Flutie Flakes, featuring former Boston College and Buffalo Bills quarterback Doug Flutie — but also in many of those endorsed by athletes from Pittsburgh.
A package of PLB Sports’ Big Ben’s Beef Jerky.
Over the years the company has produced a line of beef jerky endorsed by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, peanut butter endorsed by Jagr, salsa endorsed by Steelers defender Brett Keisel, Dijon mustard endorsed by former Penguins left winger Pascal Dupuis — and even a line of pickles, the Kasparaitis Krunchers, endorsed by former Penguin defender Darius Kasparaitis.
PLB Sports’ Darius Kasparaitis Krunchers, on display at their Robinson offices on Tuesday, March, 11, 2014.
‘An Arnold Palmer’
According to the website for Latrobe golf legend Arnold Palmer, one day in the late 1960s, Palmer was ordering lunch after a long day of designing a golf course in Palm Beach, Fla., and asked his waitress for a combination of iced tea and lemonade, a drink his wife Winnie had been making him for years.
Palmer’s preference, combined with his cultural caché, helped popularize the drink over the years. In 2001, Palmer’s company partnered with the AriZona Beverage Co. to create a branded version of the refreshing drink.
It now comes in eight different flavors, and AriZona produces more than 400 million cans per year, according to ArnoldPalmer.com.
Before the Bun Bars line of candy got around to a product endorsed by hockey titan and Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, it first changed hands multiple times.
It began as a product of the Wayne Bun Candy Co. in Fort Wayne, Ind., in the 1920s. By 1973, that company had been sold to the Standard Brands’ Curtiss Candy Co., which repackaged the Bun Bar as the Reggie! Bar, named for baseball star Reggie Jackson. A few acquisitions later, it was in the hands of the Pittsburgh Food & Beverage Co. whose subsidiary, the D.L. Clark Co., created the Mario Bun in the 1990s.
‘First day on the job’
Sidney Crosby may be ruthless when he laces up his skates, but off the ice the Penguins captain and three-time Stanley Cup champion has a reputation for being an all-around nice guy.
That couldn’t have come through better in his series of commercials for Tim Horton’s, “Sid & Nate: Drive Thru Rookies,” where Crosby and fellow Cole Harbour native Nate MacKinnon work the drive-thru at a Tim Horton’s in Nova Scotia surprising customers, botching orders and cracking each other up.
There must be something about Pittsburgh companies and athlete-endorsed foods. In the 1990s, Pittsburgh-based Chris Candies created a line of milk chocolate candy bars endorsed by quarterbacks throughout the NFL, including Bernie Kosar, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Boomer Esiason and former Steelers star Bubby Brister.
And in keeping with the longtime rivalry between the Steelers and Bengals, Brister famously said of Esiason’s product, “I’ve tasted Boomer’s. They’re to keep, not really to eat… unless you get really hungry.”
That came more than a decade after Terry Bradshaw Food Products Inc., of which Bradshaw served as board chairman, tabbed the Steelers QB as the face of its Terry’s Peanut Butter, introduced in 1980 — after No. 12 had won four Super Bowls and twice been named Super Bowl MVP.
“It’s a high-energy food. It’s a good product. After all, what can you say bad about peanut butter?” Bradshaw told his hometown newspaper, The Shreveport (La.) Journal. “… This is no mere endorsement. I’ve got a company. We’re paying all the bills, and oo-ooh — those label costs!
Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw samples “Terry’s Peanut Butter” at a promotion conference in Pittsburgh in 1980.
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