The National Basketball Association and Taco Bell are running an online program called "Driving Better Choices," focused on health and fitness, that touts Taco Bell's "Drive-Thru Diet Menu," comprising seven menu items with nine grams or less of fat. Launched late last month, the menu includes things like a chicken or fresco-grilled steak soft taco, and Fresco Chicken Burrito Supreme.
As part of the NBA program, Taco Bell has a "Driving Better Choices presented by a Taco Bell" microsite on NBA.com that has health and fitness insight from NBA players and trainers. There are also videos, training information, and NBA-related nutrition tips.
Videos include fitness tips offered by Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose and Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings. Rose will also defend his title as champion of the Taco Bell Skills Challenge during NBA All-Star Saturday Night at NBA All-Star 2010 in Dallas, per the company.
The campaign is timed with the first annual "NBA FIT Week," which started Monday and runs through Jan. 11. The program has teams and players participating in health-related programs that are intended to get children and adults to be more physically active.
Taco Bell is also supporting with a "Driving Better Choices NBA All-Star Experience" sweepstakes, wherein people who make a "better choices pledge" can enter for a chance to win a trip for two to NBA All-Star 2010. The sweepstakes will also be promoted through the NBA's Facebook and Twitter sites.
The ad campaign for the Drive-Thru Menu takes a page from Subway's long-running effort featuring real-guy Jared. But in Taco Bell's case, the weight-loss poster person is a woman, Christine Dougherty -- who purportedly lost 54 lbs. over two years, partly by eating "Drive-Thru Diet" items. Web based talk-show-like infomercials on Taco Bell's Web site feature sportscaster Chris Rose, Dougherty, and sports dietitian Ruth Carey.
Robert Passikoff, president of New York market research firm Brand Keys, tells Marketing Daily that Taco Bell has issues that may be inherent to the products they serve, that affect both consumer perception of healthfulness and consumer loyalty. "They are trying to do what Subway has done, but consumer perception is that a turkey sandwich is healthier than a taco. And there are just not a lot of people eating Mexican every day," he says.
Adds Passikoff: "While Subway has a lot of variety, and even hamburger joints have some degree of customization, there has never been that for Mexican food." He says that on Brand Keys brand loyalty list, "Taco Bell is always at the bottom of the quick-serve group, and always near the bottom of the 400 brands we rank."