Niles Paul had a problem. The second-year tight end for the Washington Redskins couldn't stop his teammates from stealing his Capri Sun. You know, Capri Sun — those sugary-sweet packets of juice that come in triangular foil containers with their own straws attached.
While you're more likely to see Capri Sun in a lunchroom than on the gridiron, the 6-foot-1, 233-pound Paul is wild about the stuff. He carried a packet in his helmet during practice — a gift from a fan. And he bought a month's supply from Sam's Club earlier this summer. But he tells the Washington Post that his teammates mooch his juice so often that he stopped bringing his favorite flavor — strawberry kiwi — to practice.
Apparently, a clever marketer at Capri Sun heard Paul's cry for help, and sprang into action.
The company, a subsidiary of Kraft Foods, sent him a specially designed case of strawberry kiwi flavored Capri Sun juices, along with a letter explaining that they are not just any old juice.
Post sports reporter Sarah Kogod has the play-by-play:
" 'We here at Capri Sun are very distressed to learn about the threat of juice-induced larceny committed against one of our drinkers,' the letter says. 'So we called in some of our most astute packaging engineers and developed a fail-safe method of protection, custom tailored for you.'
"The company had removed the straws from every container in the case, rendering them undrinkable to the average drinker. In their place, they provided Paul with a silver straw of his own, complete with his name and number engraved on it. The straw came in its own padded case," Kogod writes.
" 'That's what's up,' said Paul."
Like King Arthur with Excalibur, only Paul can open these packets of juice. So when teammate Markus White walked by and grabbed a few, he had to put them back. "Man, none of these have straws," he said, according to Kogod.
Capri Sun may say it was motivated by a concern for "juice-induced larceny," but the company was also probably hoping the story of its silver straw would go viral.
"It's jumping on a serendipitous opportunity," James L. Horton, senior director at the ad firm Robert Marston and Associates, tells The Salt. "If a company is flexible, adaptable and smart, they jump on the opportunity and use it to gain greater awareness."
Horton, a 30-year veteran of the ad business with a specialty in corporate branding, says it's common for a company to hear about an unusual use of its product and then exploit that for promotional purposes — think Subway and Jared.
"That indicates to me they must have a pretty good marketing department," Horton says.
In this case, Paul's celebrity just may give the juice maker's brand image the extra point.