Activation Gallery: Back to School

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and with many students facing uncertainty about in-school vs. at-home learning, back-to-school season kicked off at retail with full force in July as usual with both in-store and digital activity. Here, we present a sampling of the activity that caught the attention of Path to Purchase Institute editors. Institute members can see many more examples of back-to-school activations in the image vault at

BJ’s Wholesale Club’s own P-O-P materials led its back-to-school merchandising. Some CPGs, including Bic, provided account-specific, “Best in Class for Back to School” pallet skirts resembling lockers. The displays follow the retailer’s green and navy creative scheme and include its “Go Back with Big Savings” messaging. The campaign carried across digital channels as well, even using “work happy from home” messaging on social media.

CVS Pharmacy’s back-to-school activity included a confidence-boosting cause program supporting the Boys & Girls Club in partnership with Procter & Gamble. CVS and P&G pledged to donate $500,000 in value from brands including Crest, Secret and Old Spice to local Boys & Girls clubs to help kids in need “go back to school with confidence” and improve their hygiene and overall health. CVS also dangled $10 in ExtraBucks rewards to loyalty cardholders who spent $40 on participating items, including many from P&G, as well as a swath of other rewards and special discounts on seasonal products.


Mondelez International SKUs enjoyed secondary merchandising space at Meijer and Kroger via a school-bus-shaped display plugging the upcoming Illumination film “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”

Pallet trains and endcap headers from Kellogg Co. positioned in Meijer’s action alley plugged the manufacturer’s national “Feeding Reading” program, which promises one free Penguin Random House book with purchase of a qualifying SKU on custom packaging from brands including Froot Loops, Pop-Tarts and Pringles.

SC Johnson’s Ziploc deployed an account-specific half-pallet display in Walmart’s Action Alley. The displays touted sandwich and snack bags with new “Grip ’n Seal” technology as an “unbeatable bag for on the go” while activating Walmart’s “Go Back Big” seasonal message.

PepsiCo/Frito-Lay used pallet displays in Meijer’s action alley to plug its national “Support Your Teachers From Anywhere” sweepstakes, which awards 261 eligible K-12 schools a $1,000 credit redeemable on On that site, teachers can solicit donations for school supplies and projects. Shoppers entered from July 6 through Sept. 30 by submitting a UPC from an eligible PepsiCo SKU and the chool they wish to enter to

Hershey Co. kept its confectionery top of mind for back-to-school shoppers at Walmart, whether they were purchasing supplies in stores or online. In the aisles, custom school-bus-themed pallet displays stocked brands including Hershey’s, Kit-Kat and Reese’s. Some of the yellow displays also touted the super hero milk chocolate bars Hershey’s launched in partnership with DC Comics, depicting Superman and Wonder Woman characters under a “bring smiles to your heroes” message. The first batch of the bars were shared with those working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic before they became available to the wider public in July. On, Hershey deployed ads touting the aforementioned brands with an “extra credit snacks” message.

Most Albertsons Cos. chains gave Kellogg Co.’s annual “Feeding Reading” cause program the spotlight on websites with a home page carousel ad promoting the initiative, which awarded or donated one book from Penguin Random House for every qualifying Kellogg product purchased. The carousel ad linked to a dedicated e-commerce shop within the chains’ websites promoting various brands including Kellogg’s, Pop-Tarts and Eggos. Participating brands also enjoyed secondary merchandising space in most stores.

At Walmart, Hallmark Cards’ Crayola rolled out an exclusive 24-count box of “Colors of the World” skin-tone crayons celebrating diversity. Tucked into the Crayola in-line shelf set within the seasonal department, the SKU did not seem to get any special merchandising or POS marketing support. Crayola instead plugged it in multiple emails to subscribers and expanded reach by inviting consumers to share a #TrueSelfie self-portrait. In Walmart stores, other Crayola SKUs commanded secondary merchandising space on dedicated endcaps and account-specific dump bins.

In time for back-to-school season, Bic brought its kid-friendly Bic Kids coloring line to the U.S. market exclusively via Walmart stores and Comprising break-resistant crayons, ultra-washable markers and splinter-free coloring pencils, the line began rolling out in March. Bic recruited Tia Mowry to promote the line, depicting the mom and actress in videos and on social media posts. Mowry also plugged the new line during interviews with magazines such as Meredith’s People and Hearst Corp.’s Woman’s Day. A co-op Google search ad supports. On, Bic ran a “best in class” ad touting products from other lines.

Hallmark Cards’ Crayola enjoyed secondary merchandising space at Kroger via multiple dump bins and floorstands.

Colorful cases of Albertsons’ Signature Select private-label carbonated beverages made up a back-to-school-themed spectacular at a Spokane, Washington, location. Blue, green, purple, red and orange case towers bear signs depicting the word “crayon.”

Kraft Heinz tied in to warehouse club chain Sam’s Club’s back-to-school creative by deploying a home page carousel ad spotlighting Lunchables, Bagel Bites, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Capri Sun. A “Shop Now” button linked to a dedicated “Back to school favorites with Kraft Heinz” e-commerce shop showcasing products from the manufacturer.

Flowers Foods’ Nature’s Own brand enjoyed secondary merchandising space at Kroger’s Harris Teeter stores via school-bus-shaped floorstands reminding shoppers, “Don’t forget the bread.”

Hallmark Cards’ Crayola sent a Sept. 3 email to its subscribers touting discounts of up to 40% available “today only” on more than 50 back-to-school products via Amazon. A “shop now” button linked to an e-commerce page presenting the Crayola “Deal of the Day” offers.