Barkley Shines in Ruffles’ All-Star Team


Battle of the Bags


The Super Bowl may grab the marketing attention, but the US sports season is a year-round opportunity for advertisers. Case in point: Frito-Lays’ Ruffles brand, which launched its campaign with sportscaster Charles Barkley to tie in with NBA All-Star 2023. With March Madness next week, he won’t be the only basketball star showing up in ads. How did Ruffles use him, and how effective was it?

Ruffles’ Barkley ad has a simple concept, which relies on the star’s good-humored persona to level up into an entertaining commercial. Barkley can’t decide which unique Ruffles chip flavor pick, so the basketball star on each packet makes their case directly to him. LeBron James, Jayson Tatum, and A’Ja Wilson have previously starred in ads and promotions launching their own chip flavors. Now this ad brings them together and adds Barkley to the ‘Chip Deal’ roster.

Barkley is an old advertising hand – he’s starred in high-scoring ads for GEICO in the past, which took the same approach Ruffles does, playing on his friendly but no-nonsense personality and letting him banter with his fellow athletes. Here the humor comes from James’ “old man” sideswipe at the veteran Barkley – a dig which keeps LeBron’s Ruffles flavor firmly in the vending machine.

Ruffles and agency Motive clearly understand how celebrities work best in ads. Celebrities shine when an ad can present larger than life, exaggerated versions of their familiar personas – giving people an opportunity to see them in new and entertaining ways. The Barkley ad scored a strong 4.2-Stars with exceptional short-term Spike, proving Barkley and his fellow stars’ appeal.

The ad’s also the most ambitious entry yet in Ruffles’ 2-year-old Chip Deal campaign. Barkley’s own unique flavor of Ruffles chips, a very limited hot dog variety, was launched alongside the ad. This aspect isn’t mentioned in the commercial itself, which is probably the right decision: the density of stars and different flavors means Brand Fluency for Ruffles suffers a hit. Almost 1 in 5 viewers didn’t know who the ad was for – worryingly high, as the chip brand is visible throughout.

Even if the ad crams a little too much in, it’s a strong performer. Snack advertising is often lackluster or misses the mark by trying to be too surreal or hip. Ruffles get the basics right – a simple idea, some tasty new product offers and a star who’s a genuine asset to the commercial. The Chip Deal campaign looks set to perform well for another basketball season.

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