Nestlé Purina signs endorsement deal with Grumpy Cat

2013-09-17T23:45:00Z 2015-08-04T09:51:03Z Nestlé Purina signs endorsement deal with Grumpy CatBy Lisa Brown • lbrown@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8127 stltoday.com

Grumpy Cat is ready for her close-up.

St. Louis-based pet food giant Nestlé Purina PetCare announced an endorsement deal Tuesday with one of the most recognizable felines in America, Grumpy Cat, the new “spokescat” for its Friskies cat food and treats.

Internet celebrity Grumpy Cat has legions of fans online, drawing the interest of Nestlé Purina, a division of Swiss-based Nestlé that has invested heavily in social media marketing, including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

With the new deal, Grumpy Cat — whose real name is Tardar Sauce — is about to get a lot more exposure.

“Enlisting the help of Grumpy Cat allows us to extend our reach to new cat owners,” Friskies Brand Manager Shawn Brain told the Post-Dispatch. “She, ironically, makes you smile seeing her face, even if you’re sick or having a bad day.”

The 1½-year-old female mixed breed cat was living in relative obscurity in Phoenix until a photo of her frown was posted on the website Reddit in September 2012.

A YouTube video created by the brother of the cat’s owner went viral, attracting 1 million views in 24 hours. It has since grown to nearly 13 million views. That spawned more videos of the memorable brown-and-white cat.

In a year, Grumpy Cat’s Facebook page has elicited 1.3 million “likes,” and the cat has more than 111,000 followers on Twitter. Many photos of her dour face are accompanied by sarcastic quips.

On Tuesday, her photo was posted on the GrumpyCats.com website with the quote: “So many reasons to be grumpy, so little time.” Another quote: “I don’t like days that end in Y.”

“It’s unimaginable,” said Grumpy Cat’s owner, Tabatha Bundesen of Phoenix, about the fame her cat has achieved.

In March, pet food maker Nestlé Purina featured the cat in an online video game series, “Will Kitty Play With It?” The new deal extends that relationship. Financial terms of the endorsement were not released.

Brain said Nestlé Purina sees online sites as a key way to connect with cat owners.

“Dog owners have dog parks, and the Internet allows cat owners to have that conversation,” she said. “It’s where our consumers are, and cat videos resonate very strongly with cat owners.”

Fans of the cat will next get a chance to see her in an online promotion for the brand. On Oct. 15 at 6 p.m., Grumpy Cat will receive Friskies’ lifetime achievement award in the brand’s online Friskies Award Show that can be viewed live at www.thefriskies.com.

It’s the second year the brand has held the awards, which the company calls the Oscars for cat videos.

Will Grumpy Cat’s image end up on Friskies’ packaging or TV ads? The pet food maker says it’s working on marketing opportunities.

The Nestlé Purina endorsement is just one of several big deals on Grumpy Cat’s plate. She also has a movie deal in the works and a merchandise line that includes T-shirts, stuffed animals and key chains. A book, “Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book,” published this year, landed on the New York Times best-seller’s list. A bottled iced coffee drink, Grumppuccino, will be available at retailers next month.

Despite her facial expression, Grumpy Cat is excited about the new partnership with Friskies, said Bundesen in a phone interview. “She’s just as sweet as can be.”

Bundesen said she thinks the cat’s perpetual expression strikes a universal chord. “Even people who aren’t cat people can relate to how they interpret her expression,” she said.

Lisa Brown is a business reporter at the Post-Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @LisaBrownSTL and the Business section @postdispatchbiz.

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