GooGoo Gone from Opry Sponsorship

February 13, 2006 - By Chris Lewis,
           For more than three decades, announcers of the Grand Ole Opry led the Saturday night audience in a chorus of "Go get a GooGoo/It's good!" to the tune "Shave and a Haircut."
           That familiar ditty has been silenced, now that one of the Opry's longest-running sponsors has exited the stage of the venerable radio show broadcast.
           Standard Candy Co., which makes the now world-famous GooGoo Cluster, elected not to renew the annual sponsorship deal it has had with the Opry since the late 1960s. The last GooGoo jingle aired on the Jan. 28 show.
           "It's not very dramatic. We have had a number of discussions with Gaylord, and we've elected not to renew our sponsorship with the Grand Ole Opry," said Joanne Barthel, director of marketing for Nashville-based Standard Candy.
           "We plan to continue a close affiliation with the Opry going forward," she added. "We will be participating in various advertising opportunities tied to the Opry when the appropriate opportunity presents itself."
           Standard's departure from the broadcast may signal the end of other advertisers who have traditionally paid for only half-hour sponsorships of the radio show.
           In a shift from its 80-year tradition, the Opry has been moving to longer-term, more extensive sponsorship packages that integrate live-event promotion, logos, signage and mentions in the Opry's TV, radio and Web site promotions.
           So far, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and Martha White, the latter the Opry's longest-running sponsor, have signed on to the sponsorship package, but Standard declined, said Pete Fisher, Opry vice president and general manager.
           Fisher said he regrets, but understands, the company's decision and that the Opry and Standard will continue to explore other promotional partnerships.
           "What we're doing with Opry sponsorships is very much in line with the trends in the industry - to really respond to sponsors' desires to move beyond strictly advertising and have a greater sense of ownership of the event," Fisher said.
           The new sponsorship also costs more money, although Fisher would not disclose how much.
           The GooGoo sponsorship, most recently for the 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. portion of the Opry, had been a cornerstone of the show since the late 1960s, said Kyle Cantrell, an Opry announcer from 1985 to 2003.
           "I think it's sad for both Standard Candy and the Grand Ole Opry, because the GooGoo and the Opry have become synonymous and, over the years, some of the greatest moments on the Opry happened during that segment of the show," Cantrell said.
           He said during the segment in its early days, country star Roy Acuff would urge fellow announcer Hairl Hensley and Opry staff drummer Harold Weakley to sing the GooGoo commercial as a duet.
           "[Acuff] would call them the GooGoo twins," Cantrell said.
           Until just recently, Hensley and Carol Lee, who leads the Carol Lee Singers on stage, would introduce the candy bar and encourage the audience to sing the jingle with gusto.
           "I would credit the connection with the Grand Ole Opry for extending the life of the GooGoo and making it more famous," Cantrell said. "Prior to the Grand Ole Opry, at least my understanding is, that the GooGoo was pretty much a regional product and the Opry made it into an internationally known item."
           Despite their close association, the GooGoo name does not stand for Grand Ole Opry. According to company lore, one speculation is that GooGoo drew its name from the first words a baby makes.
           The candy - a cluster of peanuts, caramel and marshmallow coated with milk chocolate - was actually invented in 1912 in a copper kettle at the company's plant, located at that time at Clark Place and First Avenue.
           It's now sold in a variety of stores, including places affiliated with the Opry, including Cracker Barrel, the Opry House and Ryman Auditorium.
           Barthel said she doesn't expect the sponsorship's withdrawal to hurt the candy's sales.
           "There's a strong association between the Opry and GooGoo Clusters, and that's not going to go away," she said. " We will be participating in other advertising opportunities tied to the Opry, so it's not that we're going away completely, we're just changing our focus a little bit."
           Fisher said the Friday and Saturday Opry broadcasts continue to have five 30-second sponsor slots per show, with sponsors such as Johnny Walker Tours and Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. He didn't speak directly as to their fate, but reiterated that the Opry is moving toward the more extensive partnerships.
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