Eat your fruits and vegetables.” This may be one of the most commonly spoken phrases by parents to their children, yet is also one that isn’t always taken to heart, if national statistics regarding childhood obesity are any indication. Many schools and federally sponsored programs try to tackle the issue by encouraging children to make better eating decisions and regularly engage in physical activity, but all of these have varying results.
For LazyTown Entertainment, encouraging healthy behaviors and eating goes beyond merely reacting to recent statistics or well-meaning platitudes. The company produces “LazyTown,” a child-oriented television series airing every day exclusively in the United States on the 24-hour preschool television channel Sprout and soon-to-debut on NBC Kids, a new Saturday morning programming block premiering on NBC on Saturday, July 7. Programmed by the kids experts at Sprout and designed specifically to address the developmental needs of preschool-aged children, this new three-hour block will feature educational series like “LazyTown” that promote active, healthy lifestyles for younger children. “LazyTown,” which debuted on television in 2004 after originating as a stage production and book series, has been seen by more than 500 million children and has aired in more than 100 countries.
“Many other brands are repositioning themselves as healthy role models now that there is a global crisis with children’s health,” says LazyTown Entertainment CEO and series creator and star Magnus Scheving. “We’ve been in this space of promoting kids’ health for two decades and live it and breathe it 24/7, 365 days a year; it’s in our DNA.”
In the series, Scheving portrays Sportacus, a “slightly above average hero” called upon to assist pink-haired-and-attired “new girl in town” Stephanie in her efforts to encourage the residents of LazyTown to be active and play outside. Both Sportacus and Stephanie are opposed by Robbie Rotten, the “world’s laziest super villain.”
Sportacus is aided in his endeavors by eating “sports candy” – fruits and vegetables – and hindered by consuming too much sugar. “The reason LazyTown works is because we lead by example. A live action hero like Sportacus eats a carrot or an apple in every episode, and it gives him the power and energy he needs to keep the kids of LazyTown active and sporty,” Scheving says. “Kids watching at home see this effect with Sportacus and they want to imitate it, so they eat a carrot or apple, too. It’s very aspirational in that sense, and we never talk down to kids or preach or tell them what they should do, we just do it.
“There is so much focus on the challenges of childhood obesity globally and LazyTown is a positive and proactive solution – this is one of the most important factors of our success and one I am most proud of.”
A new partnership will help LazyTown build both brand awareness as well as help it spread its central message. The company is teaming with Sprout and Produce for Kids®, a philanthropically based organization that works with the produce industry to educate consumers about healthy eating with fresh produce.
Produce for Kids was established in 2002 with the goal of bringing the produce industry together to raise funds for children’s non-profit organizations. Ten years later, the company serves as a year-round healthy eating resource for parents and also manages two annual in-store promotional campaigns that benefit children’s organizations.
Sportacus, Stephanie and other LazyTown characters will be featured on in-store displays for Produce for Kids’ spring “Get Healthy, Give Hope” and fall “Healthy Schools, Healthy Minds” fundraising campaigns in more than 3,000 grocery stores and fresh markets in 30 states. More than 50 fruit and vegetable growers sponsor the program, which raises funds for local children’s hospitals. Participating retailers include Ahold’s GIANT and Martin’s Food Stores, Giant Landover and Stop & Shop divisions; Associated Wholesale Grocers’ Major Savings, Advantage, Independent, Country Mart, Homeland and United divisions; Kroger’s Southwest, Central, Fred Meyer and King Soopers divisions; Meijer Stores; Price Chopper and Publix Super Markets.
The in-store displays will feature Ideal Meal™ recipe cards that families can use to incorporate produce into each meal of the day. The recipes provide healthy meal solutions for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks that utilize fresh produce as the main ingredients. This year, in celebration of Produce for Kids’ tenth birthday, there are even healthy desserts added to the mix. All in-store meal card recipes are also available online at Produceforkids.com as part of a recipe box of over 80 healthy, easy to prepare meals.
In addition, the Produce for Kids campaign will air multiple LazyTown-themed television spots on Sprout, sponsor special events featuring LazyTown characters in grocery stores across the country and host a contest that challenges families to consume as many fruits and vegetables as they can in 10 days and track their results.
Produce for Kids offers tons of healthy eating tips on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest. The Parents on Produce board – a Produce for Kids advisory board comprised of working parents – develops articles with tips and resources for the website and also supports Produce for Kids through social media.
Produce for Kids became linked with the LazyTown brand as a result of a media partnership with Sprout that started this year. “When we started that partnership, Sprout told us LazyTown would be a great fit for us, as it fits within our mission of encouraging healthy living through the consumption of fresh produce,” Vice President Kim Avola says. “The message we’re trying to get out is that eating healthy can be fun, which the show does a good job of conveying.”
Scheving says Sprout and Produce For Kids are “perfect partners” for his brand. “We work with broadcasters that are truly committed to the ethos of the show,” he stresses. “Sprout is one of those partners who have given us enormous support, including a special two-hour block airing every day from 2 to 4 p. m. Eastern time called the ‘Super Sproutlet Show’ where we can go beyond the episodes and promote the health lifestyle content to motivate kids. They are also amazing promotional supporters and are a big reason our Produce For Kids project will be a success – because they will support it with a TV spot, online media support and on-air promos. They are world-class, and they know kids and parents.”
“Sprout has always believed in the importance of highlighting healthy habits to children sooner rather than later,” said Jim Multari, Sprout’s vice president of marketing. “We launched the ‘Super Sproutlet Show’ to introduce movement, nutrition and everyday healthy choices to our national audience of families with preschool-aged children.
“There isn’t anyone more motivational and fun than LazyTown’s Sportacus to resonate with this engaged audience.”
The Produce For Kids campaign is LazyTown’s first major produce partnership effort in the United States. “LazyTown is all about motivating children to lead a healthier lifestyle, and for the past several years, we’ve been concentrating the majority of our efforts in promoting fresh produce and other healthy consumables,” Scheving says. “These products are a natural extension of the brand because we feature them in the show every day.”
Previous partnerships include teaming with U.K. retailer Asda to promote its Great Stuff fresh produce line, which saw a 40 percent increase in year-over-year sales as a result, Scheving says.
In Mexico, the brand has partnered with the USDA and fruit growers – such as Washington Apple, USA Pears and California Grapes – seeing increases of more than 30 percent and shipment of more then 65 million apples during its promotion. A similar campaign in Colombia reported a 44 percent increase in fruit sales to children. The brand also has worked extensively with produce companies in Scheving’s home country of Iceland to promote healthy eating, he adds.