Babe Ruth Was No Match For Baby Ruth

Posted on November 4, 2010. Filed under: Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Baby Ruth candy bar

Image by dbking via Flickr

You probably know the story about how the Curtiss Candy Company out-played Major League Baseball in one of the earliest examples of successful sports marketing on a large scale?

As a reminder, the story went like this:

Curtiss Candy launched the Baby Ruth candy bar in 1921. Coincidentally, a certain George Herman Ruth was launching home runs at a furious pace for the New York Yankees baseball team. You know this guy’s story: G.H. Ruth, as Babe Ruth, went on to become baseball’s most famous player of his time and – likely – of all time.

So what did this Shakespeare of Swat, this Napoleon of the batter’s box, this Leonardo of the Louisville Slugger set, have in common with the dime store Baby Ruth bar?

Nothing. Nada. Rien de tout! When it came to Babe Ruth and Baby Ruth, the two shared no affiliation, commercial or otherwise, the Curtiss Candy Company maintained. In fact, the Baby Ruth bar was named  in honor of Ruth Cleveland, daughter of President Grover Cleveland, 22nd and 24th president of the United States – so said the candy concocter, perhaps with a certain coy candor.

Candy Not So Dandy For The Babe

Even the bountiful Babe was powerless to prevent Curtiss Candy Co. and its founder, Otto Schnering, from pitching its sweet Ruthian sensation across the nation.

When Ruth tried to launch his own, Babe Ruth bar in 1926, the candy company erupted in protest. The Bronx bomber’s bon-bon name infringed upon its own trademarked product, the Curtiss bench railed. The Court of Customs and Patent Appeals agreed with Curtiss, barring the immortal New York pinstriper from using his own name as a candy-marketing brand.

Not that Ruth was much put off his game by this judicial defeat. In 1927, the Sultan of Swat blasted 60 home runs, a record that stood until 1961 when fellow pinstriper Roger Maris smashed 61 round-trippers, albeit with the aid of an expanded regular season schedule of 162 games. (Teams played a 154-game schedule in Ruth’s time.) Curtiss Candy continued to market the Baby Ruth bar down through the decades as a product that owed its Ruthian roots to a President’s daughter (the aforementioned Ruth Cleveland) who died in 1904 – 17 years before the first snack-rack manifestation of the Ruth bar.

Not until 2007 did Baby Ruth, by then owned by the Nestle Corporation, become an official member of the Major League Baseball promotional team. It was then that MLB featured Baby Ruth as the official candy bar of Major League Baseball. For the Babe, at rest up in the great Dugout in the Sky, the news must of brought on a major case of indigestion.

Now if you look at the Baby Ruth website (www.babyruth.com) you will see that Baby Ruth is almost as much a part of the game today as peanuts, Crackerjacks, hot dogs and bobblehead  giveaway days.

What a  tremendous amount of marketing audacity – ruthlessly applied —  it took for Curtiss  to conceive, launch and sustain the Baby Ruth brand throughout the 1920s and beyond. The company must have known it had a can’t-miss  product on its hands – a product so right for the times that it screamed success from the very start. If only it could stick to its story of happy marketing synchronicity. And stick to its story about the other-than-Babe-Ruth source of inspiration for its chocolate and caramel nut bar it did. Beating the great Babe out of his candy naming rights, maybe that wasn’t so polite. Maybe the Babe was sore about it. Maybe he was actually trying to knock a Baby Ruth bar out of a fan’s hand in 1932 when he supposedly called his home run shot in a World Series game. (The game was played  at Wrigley Field in Chicago, after all. The Curtiss Candy Company was not only located in Chicago but also maintained a giant Baby Ruth billboard on the rooftop of an apartment building across the street from the ball park.)

No matter. When it came to candy bars, Curtiss out-foxed the Babe.

Sources:

George Herman Ruth
Curtiss Candy Company

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