Cereal Athletes

Mario Williams follows Doug Flutie in sports cereal branding

Once upon a time you had to be a champion to get your face on a cereal box. Now you just have to champion a good cause. Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams launced his own branded breakfast treats last week, “MariO’s.” The honey-toasted oats aren’t going to revolutionize mornings, but a decent portion of sales will benefit a children’s cancer charity. The cereal joins a long list of sports-star themed packaged goods with a higher purpose, all manufactured by PLB Sports Inc. of Pittsburgh. The company, an offshoot of a food distributor, now boasts more than 100 celebrity products, like Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander’s Fastball Flakes, and a Dijon mustard bearing the name of Pittsburgh Penguins’ winger Pascal Dupuis. Somewhere between fundraising gimmick and collectible, they’ve found a unique place in the market, says Doug Ritchart, a PLB account manager.“We always encourage people to buy two boxes. One to eat, and the other put up on the shelf.”