BUY ME SOME: The Cracker Jill campaign started at the beginning of last year’s baseball season. 

Frito-Lay is changing the face of Cracker Jack, and women’s athletics.

The iconic snack has been celebrating female athletes who break barriers in sports since the start of 2022 baseball season with a program dubbed Cracker Jill, which features five female characters on limited-edition packaging.

In July, the company selected nine “I Am Cracker Jill” recipients. The ongoing campaign was a partnership with the national, non-profit Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), which has received $400,000 to date from the program to expand access and opportunities for girls and women in sports.

After announcing this year’s “I Am Cracker Jill” recipients, Leslie Vesper, vice president of marketing for Frito-Lay North America, talked about the program, Frito-Lay’s commitment to driving equity in sports and the potential impact on women’s athletics.

Leslie Vesper, Frito-Lay North America

VenuesNow: Explain how Frito-Lay rethought a classic imprint for a new audience by creating the Cracker Jill brand?
Leslie Vesper: Cracker Jill spotlighted five different representations of female athletes to show women and girls across the country that they could see themselves represented and feel empowered to conquer their dreams. We also added her character to our product packaging with limited-edition packaging in baseball stadiums last year.

How did the program expand in 2023?
This year, through our “I Am Cracker Jill” award program, we are expanding our Cracker Jill roster with the first ever athlete to appear on a Cracker Jack bag. Lindsey Zurbrugg was selected from nine finalists, all of whom will receive $5,000 to continue fueling their sports dreams, to have her story of tenacity and resilience appear on special-edition Cracker Jill bags available nationwide next year.

What has the relationship with the Women’s Sports Foundation, which was founded by Billie Jean King in 1974, meant to the program?
The Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) has truly established itself as a leader in championing women’s sports, through advocacy, research, grants and programs for coaches, athletes and girls.

Research from the Women’s Sports Foundation helped Cracker Jack understand the true need for the Cracker Jill program. WSF found that 70 percent of female leaders acknowledge the media’s lack of female sports coverage negatively impacts the number of girls participating in sports, and Cracker Jack knew its packaging could provide a powerful platform to elevate athletes that could inspire the next generation. We knew that if we really wanted to make an impact and inspire girls to keep playing and keep achieving, the WSF would be the right partner to help us. We are so thankful for their partnership these past two years, and we look forward to the work that’s to come.

How has Cracker Jill evolved from multicultural bags to an actual athlete?
The first year of the Cracker Jill program was all about introducing Cracker Jill and what she represented to the world. By spotlighting five different representations of female athletes in our Cracker Jill roster, we hoped women and girls across the country could see themselves represented and feel empowered to conquer their dreams.

In our second year, we launched the “I Am Cracker Jill” award with the help of our athlete ambassadors Mallory Swanson and Jessica Long to identify women and girls who were changing the face of sports so that we had more inspiring stories to reach even more girls.

What process did you use to select the “I Am Cracker Jill” recipients?
The “I Am Cracker Jill” award submissions told incredible stories of hundreds of young female athletes across the nation who are working to break down barriers and leave their mark on sports. It was difficult to narrow down to our nine finalists, who will receive $5,000 to help fund their sports endeavors and our support in amplifying their stories. Our grand prize winner, Lindsey Zurbrugg, was selected to become the first real athlete in the brand’s history to appear on Cracker Jack packaging.

How many bags have been produced and where are they being distributed?
We are unable to share the exact number of bags that have been produced, but the Cracker Jill bags have been available for purchase in professional baseball stadiums across the country for the last two seasons. The packaging with Lindsey featured will be available beginning in 2024.

What has the response been from consumers?
We love seeing the positive reactions and the many young women and girls who post the product and their stories on their social channels.