Then there was football...
(Actually both came into being around the same time, especially where commercially produced chocolate is concerned, but that's to deviate from the thrilling introduction...)
...Then finally there was SOCCERBAR!
You haven't heard of it, have you?
Thought not. Soccerbar rode the first big wave of themed chocolate products that emerged in the late-1960's when companies like Cadbury and Nestlé (pronounced 'Nessul' in our house) looked for new ways to make us buy their choccies. Like we needed an excuse!
Aiming their sights squarely at the junior market, they produced a succession of fairly ordinary chocolate bars temptingly packaged with imagery from films and TV programmes. By the early-70s it was possible to buy your favourite cocoa-based comestibles in association with The Jungle Book, Noddy, Doctor Who and a host of others... and that was before turncoats like The Mr Men and The Wombles sold their souls later that same decade.
Yet it wasn't always a specific title that could tempt the average schoolboy to part with his pocket money. Sometimes a generic concept could work just as well, and what better than the exciting world of football? (Well pictures of naughty, bikini-clad women on a chocolate bar wrapper was always going to be litigious at the best of times...)
The year was 1973 and Cadbury decided it was the to bring the world of football to its chocolate-munching devotees, and Soccerbar was the result. There was, perhaps, a problem. Although some chocolate bars could be made in a shape loosely approximating a cartoon character, it wasn't so easy to replicate in fine detail the lank hair of Stan Bowles or the stocky ruggedness of Norman Hunter.
A different approach was needed and ultimately Cadbury decided to focus on the packaging, rather than the contents. Around each foil-wrapped bar was a brightly coloured sleeve; the front of it featured a hand-drawn action shot (sometimes deliberately referencing a proper league club like Crystal Palace) while the back contained Soccerbar's undoubted USP: knowledge.
As we all know, kids like nothing better than collecting a set of something, and here they could do so by collecting all 12 Soccerbar wrappers. Why? Because each one had tips and advice on how to improve your football skills and fitness.
Many a nugget of helpful instruction was provided. "Wingers... Practice crossing the ball by constantly aiming at a point above the penalty spot which would make for a good header" suggested one wrapper, while another told Centre Backs that "solid, accurate heading is vital".
Staying fit and avoiding injury was also discussed, telling the young consumer that warming up and doing exercises were vital in order to stay in peak condition. Quite how that would have gone down with the chocolate-scoffing juvenile one can only wonder, but the advice was valuable nonetheless.
It's not quite clear how long Soccerbars were around for, but we're guessing that England's failure to qualify for the 1974 World Cup may have spelled the end for anything football-related in Cadbury's growing range of products.
This was, nonetheless, a simple example of maximising sales by pandering to your potential customers. Kids love football, kids love chocolate, ergo you make a chocolate bar that appeals to young football fans. It worked like a charm and the bellies of millions of children were satisfyingly filled accordingly.
-- Chris Oakley