Hearing about the Monkees likely conjured to mind scenes from the television show or elicits some humming of their catchiest beats. But the Monkees should actually make everyone relive the days of aiming Nerf Balls at one another and sprinting to catch them.
That’s because it’s actually the Monkees who used their image to turn a toy into a cultural sensation just like them. Members Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork, and Davy Jones appeared in a commercial that made band and toy alike synonymous with each other.
The Monkees promoted Nerf Balls
The ’60s music scene was dominated by the rock and pop band the Monkees. They were the original boy band that laid the foundation for teen idols from David Cassidy to Justin Bieber. That’s one powerful image. Advertisers could get a lot out of associating with them – and they sure did. But it wasn’t directly the Parker Brothers toy brand that approached the Monkees. Instead, it was Kool-Aid.
Specifically, the Monkees were recruited to appear in a Kool-Aid ad. What’s the connection? The commercial showed the remaining members playing with Nerf Balls. These were special because they were both bouncy and soft, allowing kids to safely play them at home without worrying too bad about destroying limb or lounge.
Work and play
The commercial featuring the Monkees was actually part of a partnership between the toy brand and Kool-Aid, owned by Kraft Heinz. What’s become known as the “world’s first indoor ball” made its debut in 1969. Anyone who sent in their collected Kool-Aid packet tops would get a Nerf Ball. Together, both brands would survive for decades to come.
Indeed, it was a meeting of multiple monstrously successful brands. The Monkees had the same commercial power as figures like Elvis Presley while Kool-Aid was proving the fastest way to a person’s heart is through the stomach and Nerf Balls were changing the landscape of toys. In fact, upon initial release, 4.5 million units of Nerf Balls were sold. Showbiz CheatSheet credits the Monkees with ensuring Nerf Balls stay on to become a cultural touchstone, which they do remain to this day, now with a whole arsenal of foam-dart goodies added in.