Hank Aaron markets hits – from cereal to cars

By Tomi Morris Johnson

Digital images by Kurk Johnson


©2002 WingcomLtd. All Rights Reserved.


July 25, 2002, Marietta, GA…Homerun King Hank Aaron continues to be a hard-hitting role model along with being a leading crowd drawer, high-end car dealer, baseball employee, award winner, donut shop franchisee, and fried chicken entrepreneur.


Customers lined up in droves to get Wheaties cereal boxes with his picture on it autographed at a local grocery store, a testament to his continuing celebrity status. The event was sponsored by Wheaties, Publix® Super Markets, and the Atlanta Braves.


Hammerin’ Hank’s name can also be seen all over Georgia’s highways, on the front and back license plate covers of BMW sport cars that he sells at his dealership in Union City. And he just received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Bush. On top of that, he’s a really nice guy! All this is wadded up into a 68-year-old-man born Henry Aaron, depicted as a “quiet and effective leader” by the National Baseball Hall of Fame.



General Mill’s Scott Nevitt (r)

shows Tomi Johnson Wheaties box.

“Heritage is the key,” said Scott Nevitt, account manager for General Mills. “Aaron represents a heritage in baseball that was captured on our Wheaties package. We wanted to share that with the Atlanta public and give them the opportunity to come out and get an autograph from Mr. Aaron.  He was recognized in February for National Black History Month on our Wheaties box.  Mr. Aaron is certainly a superstar and a baseball icon,” Nevitt said.


Area-wide Publix customers waited in a line which wrapped around the corner. They received free food, drinks, ice cream and played games while waiting for autograph.



Bob Moore, Vice President of Publix Super Markets, Inc., is responsible for the Atlanta Division, and most of Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee stores. “General Mills came out with the Hank Aaron Wheaties box and with him being the homegrown guy, it was just the perfect tie, partnering with them,” Moore said of the store’s 10th anniversary celebration. “We’re a little carried away here with the turnout,” he said. “This is double what we expected. This turnout reminds Mr. Aaron what a folk hero he is in our country and how people still love him.”


Tomi Johnson and Publix VP Bob Moore display boxes along with Dylan, Justin, and Shane Geller from Timberidge Elementary. The 5 feet tall displays are to be auctioned off later with money going to the United Way.


“Obviously, for Publix customers to get an opportunity to meet him, if just for a moment, and have the Wheaties box memento signed, that’s something they are going to remember for the rest of their lives. It’s a whole lot deeper than a two-hour event; it’s life changing. We thought if we could pull this off, our customers would just go bananas, and we’ve gone through a whole bunch of bananas today.”




“We all have role models in life. Hank Aaron is a role model. I’m thankful that I know him. I’ve watched what he has done for kids with his foundation, and he’s more than just a baseball player. We should all follow what he does,” Moore said.

Born February 5, 1934 in Mobile, Alabama, Henry “Hank” Aaron began playing baseball professionally with the Indianapolis Clowns. Now he is in the front office of the Atlanta Braves, serving as senior vice president, as well as an entrepreneur with his hands in bankable endeavors and non-profit foundations. Aaron prides himself on setting up the Chasing the Dream Foundation for kids as a way to help motivate successful careers.


Interview with Hank Aaron:

Q: What can you tell us about your profession as a marketer?


A:  As a marketer?  You mean…


Q. You’re basically into marketing now, right?

A: (Laughingly) I don’t know whether I’m into marketing or not. Do you mean in the automobile business? You want to know about that?

Q:  You’re basically a baseball phenomenon, but you’re also a businessman, and you’re a very successful one. Can you tell us a little bit about the world of celebrity marketing?

A:  My baseball career is over, but I still have a long ways to go.  I just got started, really, and I feel like I’m a newcomer in this field. I feel like I’m on the right track, and I’m determined to do well.  If this works out the same way my baseball career did, we should be successful at it.


Q:  If you had never played baseball, do you think your future would have been the same, and if not, what would you have liked your future to have held?





A:  I think back and say I was one of the 15,000th luckiest boys in all the world, growing up in a segregated system like I did in Mobile, AL and having had the opportunity to play baseball, and I did it very well.  I think I could have done anything because I was determined to do well. That was part of my make-up.  My parents brought me up that way. Regardless as to whether I was in baseball or whatever I was doing, I would have probably been good at it.


Q:  I understand that your mother is alive and a big influence in your life. How were your parents able to motivate you?


A:  There were several ways that they went about it. First of all, they were very demanding. They made sure we treated our neighbor and people who were around us the same way we would like to be treated. That was number one.  The other thing was to have respect for our elders. There was absolutely no back talk like I see our young people doing today.  There was no compromise. We were brought up to say “thank you” and appreciate what we had.  We didn’t have that much, but we were able to share it. My mother always said, “Son, it’s easy to fall, and when you get up there, you want to stay up.”

◄Aaron’s Shining Light Award reads: “Hammerin’ Hank inspires us all to pursue our dreams. His shining light celebrates the glory of major league baseball and the Atlanta community.”

Q:  The sixth grade students at J. J. Daniell Middle School wanted me to ask you whether you have ever played “frogball” or “ragball”?


A:  “Frogball” I don’t know anything about; “ragball”, yes.  Growing up, I didn’t have anything else to do but play ragball because we didn’t have a hardball to play with. I don’t know what a frogball is!


Q:  Mr. Aaron, your name is an anchor and is recognized with success.  What is the likelihood of you and other celebrities using yourselves as springboards to help others who have less notoriety achieve success?


A:  That’s part of my aim and makeup.  I have a foundation called “Chasing the Dream” which my wife and I started about seven or eight years ago to try to help kids who are less motivated and less fortunate. I think that if we look at it, most people who have been successful in whatever endeavor have tried to do that.


Aaron and wife, Billye, started the Chasing the Dream Foundation to help kids.


Q. I was researching the Black Almanac where your name is first, in alpha order, which is wonderful because I was told that if you want to be successful in business, your businesses name should start with an “A” so it will be first in the telephone book.  What do you want people to remember when they hear your name, Hank Aaron, spoken?




“I would want people to think of me in terms of being very caring to mankind.”




Aaron poses with Evander Holyfield during political fundraiser for

Brother-in-law David Scott.►


A:  Rather that think of all the homeruns I hit and being successful in baseball, I would want people to think of me in terms of being very caring to mankind, that I was instrumental in trying to help others rather than trying to help myself. I don’t want anyone to say, “Well, you know, he had more homeruns than anybody else.” That’s in the newspaper and is documented. I want people to know that aside from that, I was able to help others who are less fortunate.





▲Aaron’s sales team sells high performance BMWs and Mini Coopers at his dealership in metro Atlanta located at 4171 Jonesboro Rd., Union City, Ga. Ruth Kimble, (middle photo) finance manager at the BMW dealership, says Aaron is a wonderful person who maintains good employee relationships.


This information is the opinion of the author and, therefore, should not be construed as libelous.