The video above is absolutely the best thing you will watch all day.
The year was 1988. Nintendo was experiencing its early 8-bit heyday of popularity. Nintendo was still riding the success of Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System which was released three years earlier in 1985, as well as The Legend of Zelda. Both were enormous hits for the company and helped propel video games and systems into the living room arguably more than any other game before or since. Character branding has always been a popular addition to successful entertainment. The “Super Mario Bros. Power Up Energy Drink” was obviously not the first video game branding. Walk around Walmart today and you’re sure to see Angry Bird paraphernalia all over the place, along with many other video game characters. However, before Angry Birds, before Modern Warfare, before Pokemon – there was Mario and Zelda. The popular way to reach children at the time? Cereal! Also terrible TV shows, but that’s a discussion for a future vector… Mario and Zelda were commonly combined into the early 1990s. The Super Mario Bros. Super Show did it later, but the Nintendo Cereal System was one of the earliest examples. The cereal was a play off the Nintendo Entertainment System.
The cereal box was split in half and contained two fun flavors. One half had fruity puffs shaped like Mario characters. The characters included Goombas, turtles, Bowser, mushrooms, and Mari himself. This half was aptly titled the “Super Mario Bros. Action Series.” The other half included berry flavored cereal shaped like Zelda icons. These included a key, shield, boomerang, heart, and Link. This half was named the “Zelda Adventure Series.” The boxes also included trading cards and stickers. You could even win a Mario Bros. cereal bowl!
Needless to say, the Nintendo Cereal System was an important early example of character branding. Today, cereal isn’t as important a marketing area for video games. The median gamer age has shifted from children to guys in their late-20s to early-30s. Energy drinks are a much more relevant marketing area. Thus, Mario has recently made a comeback in that area!