When many people of our generation think of Hi-C, they immediately think of Ecto Cooler– the highly successful Ghostbusters juice box tie-in that outlived the cartoon series it was based on and even went on to see a successful resurgence in 2016 (but has since been discontinued).
Ghostbusters’ Ecto Cooler wasn’t the only 80s/90s promotional campaign that Hi-C had going. In 1991, Hi-C teamed up with the New Kids on the Block (NKOTB) to shill their Boppin’ Berry and Jammin’ Apple varieties in a special 1991 promotional issue of the New Kids on the Block comic book. Yes, they had a comic book. The Hi-C special was free, but it had a whole 75-cent value. Buckle up, because here’s the full issue:
Thirsty yet? Because the New Kids sure were.
The comic follows the New Kids on the Block as they add their signatures to the Wall of Fame while sippin’ that sweet Hi-C nectar. Zelda Zealous, the New Kids’ most fanatical fan, jackhammers their signatures off the wall almost immediately because she is so obsessed with them. This whole obsessed NKOTB fan theme was portrayed often in the comics and in the NKOTB cartoon series. I could pretend I never fell prey to it, but I had Donnie’s mugshots on my bedroom walls and ran an Internet Fan Club for Jonathan Knight, so maybe things in my life aren’t that great.
The ‘Kids go to save Zelda from the lions in the zoo (because they inexplicably signed a lion’s cave in the zoo. Listen, I didn’t write this), but Zelda escapes safe and sound.
Oh, they’re still drinking Hi-C and there’s apparently some kind of Hi-C roller coaster at this zoo/amusement park that looks straight up like some Traction Park shiz.
We are then interrupted by a shameless plug for NKOTB merchandise. Something I never fell for.
MOVE ALONG OK.
Right. So the New Kids end up on the Hi-C roller coaster with anthropomorphic versions of the Boppin’ Berry and Jammin’ Apple mascots. Boppin’ Berry talks like how I text when I’m drunk. WORD UP HOMES!
A giant billboard with NKOTB signatures is put up on top of a tall building and of course Zelda is on the case. The doctor that has been helping them hypnotizes her and WHOA THE DOC IS BEHIND ALL OF THIS! This is some Sixth Sense level twist. And Donnie was there for both of these things, so it totally makes sense. The New Kids foil the Doc’s plans and Zelda falls into Jordan’s arms, but peril is apparent…
BUT OH SNAP! JAMMIN’ APPLE SAVES THE DAY! DEF GRAB, YO!
The image of Boppin’ Berry without his sunglasses will greet all of us in tonight’s inevitable nightmares. Boppin’ Berry hypnotizes the Doc (of course) and he never steals another autograph. Thanks Hi-C! The end. OR IS IT. It is.
A New Kids on the Block Gold Subscription? Is this still good? I want that card in my wallet.
If you haven’t had enough of Boppin’ Berry and Jammin’ Apple, don’t worry your pretty little face off because there was more!
This beautiful commercial from 1990 advertises the same varieties the NKOTB were pushing. I’m actually impressed with the 3D and with how unabashedly 90s it is. I challenge you to find a more 90s commercial (seriously, because I’d love to watch it and get obsessed with it).
Promotional items for Boppin’ Berry and Jammin’ Apple were available, but no sign of the New Kids on this one. Here is a portable radio with Boppin’ Berry on one side and Jammin’ Apple on the other side:
Of course there were promos with the New Kids on the actual products. Thanks to Greg Koenig, we can see that the New Kids on the Block were included on the actual labels of Hi-C products:
The NKOTB Hi-C promo included the boys’ signatures on a card in the packaging (no need to pry them off the wall), the chance to win “clothes worn by New Kids on the Block”, and a trip to their concert.
Is it gross that you could win clothes worn by NKOTB? It’s a little gross, right? It does speak to the impact the band had on a certain demographic back in the day that this would be considered normal and totally wanted. I mean, I only have a small swatch of something a New Kid wore.
…I’ll see myself out.
I suppose NKOTB’s comic form hawking Hi-C shouldn’t be that far-fetched to me. Hi-C is owned by Coca-Cola, who sponsored NKOTB’s Magic Summer Tour in 1990. The ‘Kids even did a catchy jingle for Coca-Cola Classic.
Part of the NKOTB Magic Summer jingle was used in promotion for Coca-Cola’s MagiCans:
Basically, instead of soda some Coca-Cola cans had cash prizes or gift certificates inside that would pop out once opened. The winning cans would obviously feel a bit lighter than a standard can, so they balanced it out with some nasty liquid. Reports came in that the cans were faulty and people were getting sick from drinking the gross liquid. The promotion ended after three weeks.
With Coca-Cola’s MagiCans being cut short earlier than expected, although it did continue with MagiCups for fountain pop at fast food joints, I wonder if they lent the ‘Kids out to Hi-C to get more bang for their buck and to get some more promo out for them on actual store shelves.
This wasn’t the last time Hi-C teamed up with a boyband, either. The Backstreet Boys were featured heavily (two songs… in a row) in the aptly titled 1998 album “Hi-C Music CD”. The cover boasts that this collection features “The Backstreet Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, Imajin & More”. Wow, what large bevy of artists could this “music cd” hold? Oh, one other artist/group/I have no idea: Solid HarmoniE. Ah.
Sadly, from what I can tell, Hi-C is not available in Canada anymore. Maybe it never was and I was sippin’ on smuggled U.S. groceries. Ecto Cooler came back (and sorry if you didn’t get to try it because Lee bought it all) but what happened to Boppin’ Berry and Jammin’ Apple? Boppin’ Berry is apparently Boppin’ Strawberry and as for Jammin’ Apple, the closest we have is Candy Apple Cooler from what I can gather.
I’d also like to mention that there’s a flavor called Grabbin’ Grape, which makes me uncomfortable not only because grape is a terrible flavor, but the Grabbin’ part is a little too aggressive for juice.
We all know the fate of Ecto Cooler– it stuck around much longer than The Real Ghobusters did (1987-2001, was renamed twice, and then finally the flavor died in 2007 only to be resurrected nine years later).
On the other hand, the New Kids on the Block were around from 1984 until 1994 but then reunited in 2008 and are still touring to this day with a new album due out in May. Will we ever see another NKOTB-Coca-Cola-Hi-C-deal?
It is strange that the Hi-C-NKOTB connection doesn’t come up more often, but I guess anything Hi-C-related is entirely overshadowed by Ecto Cooler. Not implying that it’s a bad thing, it’s just the reality in which we live.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a few NKOTB autographs to chisel off some walls. Pass the Boppin’ Berry!