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Nickelodeon Super Toy Run
Like many kids, I spent a lot of my time in my own head. Dreaming about things that I wished would happen. Some of those dreams were transient, popular for a day or a week, and then gone. Others, though, would linger. One such dream I had was to participate in a contest toy shopping spree.
If you aren’t familiar with the concept, it is when you would be let loose in a store and could fill your cart or carts with whatever you could get your hands on. An adult version of this involving groceries was the basis for the game show, Supermarket Sweep.
Yet, I lived in a world where no contests like this presented themselves. That changed in 1984 when Nickelodeon began a sixteen-year run of annual Nickelodeon Super Toy Runs.
What was the Nickelodeon Super Toy Run?
It was a brilliant idea for the still fledgling network. Almost every kid dreams of getting to run wild in a toy store. So why not turn that into a media event?
In the Nickelodeon Super Toy Run, you would enter either by sending your name and address directly to Nickelodeon or by entering at the participating toy store.
While it would change over the years, the Grand Prize was usually a 5-minute run through a toy store where you could grab whatever you could and take it home with you.
Other prize values would vary over the years. With some as low as $25 all the way up to $1000 gift certificates to be used at the sponsored toy store. When other sponsors were involved, they often gave cash or specific toy prize awards as well.
All in all, it was an amazing possibility for any toy-loving kid.
For how many Years did they do the Nickelodeon Super Toy Run?
I kept reading online that the first Super Toy Run was in 1985 and that they stopped doing them at some point in the mid-Nineties. A few simple searches put both of those facts in doubt.
This commercial for the 2nd Annual Toy Run was from 1985. Here is the 1985 version that mentions it’s the 2nd annual one.
The 1st Nickelodeon Super Toy Run
I was able to track down the first Toy Run. The contest started on Nickelodeon on December 1st and ran through the 23rd. It didn’t go by the Super Toy Run name yet, instead it was referred to as the “The Nick Toy Run.”
Here were the even’t details. One grand-prize winner and two adults would be flown to Denver, Colorado for one night with all meals and transportation included. They would then go to a Children’s Palace toy store for a half hour the night before the event to plan out their haul.
The next morning they would return to the store for a five minute, all you can grab shopping spree. These toys would then be delivered to the winner’s home.
One hundred second prizewinners would receive gift certificates for $25.
Where did they hold the Super Toy Run?
Over the years, the Super Toy Run would be held in either a Toys R Us Children’s World, or Kay Bee Toy store. While you could enter to win at your local version of these stores, when the actual contest occurred, the winner was flown to a specially selected location.
From what I can tell, two states were luck enough to host the actual toy run, California and Hawaii.
Example Nickelodeon Super Toy Run Winners Hauls
They did several post-run commercials that ran on Nickelodeon that summarized how well the winners performed. Often footage of the run is included in the footage, so you can get an idea of what sort of toys kids were grabbing during that year. The monetary figures that I hear for toy grand totals usually fall between $9,000 and $11,000.
Combine that with prizes from secondary sponsors and the family trip to the actual toy run, and this is a decent prize.
I found a few articles online that interviewed or mentioned kids who were winners in the toy run over the years. My favorite was for first place (not grand prize) winner, Heather Zuleba. Mainly because you get a good breakdown of her winnings that year.
Heather won a $1000 gift certificate to Toys R Us and a received a $500 check from Cap’n Crunch/Quaker Oats. Since it was a gift certificate, the toys didn’t need to be bought all at once. Zuleba had spent $700 at the time of the interview and had filled three shopping carts. What did this lucky kid get in 1988?
A toy keyboard
Several board games and puzzles
Atari 7800 and games
Assorted Barbie dolls
A LOT of batteries
I found an article from 1992 about 10-year-old winner, Bobby Russell. Bobby did his three-minute shopping spree in San Jose, CA. He would fill seven carts and bring home over $9,500 in toys. The receipt for that many toys was over 5-feet-long.
He gives an interesting detail about the toy run as it related to the preview contestants did the day before. If any item was too large or heavy, they would put a special tag on it. Then, when Bobby was running through the store, he didn’t need to grab the item, only its tag. That explain why in the footage they post in promos, you never see very large items in the carts.
Super Toy Runs Promos by Year
The first Nickelodeon Super Toy Run was in 1984, and they would run them annually until 2000. Locations and Sponsors would change over the years.
Here are promos what I could find about each one starting in 1985. Sadly, a lot of these promos are missing, but I was able to find nine of them online so far.
Note: If you have more information about Nickelodeon Super Toy Run or see a new promo, please contact me or post a comment, I would love to add more details below.
Usually my sweet spot for advertising is the eighties, but I think these promos really hit their over-the-top best in the nineties. Some of them have a weirdo extreme energy that is just remarkable.
Entry Forms and Print Promotions
During the eighties, they would run print ads in newspapers and magazine urging you to go to your local toy store to fill out an entry form. Then in the nineties, they would start printing actual entry forms that you could send in to win.
I have collected a few of these forms and advertisements for your viewing enjoyment.
Nickelodeon Super Toy Run 1985
Sponsors and Partners
Nickelodeons main sponsor throughout the years was Toys R Us, but they were not the only toy store sponsor. For a few years, Kay Bee Toys would host the Fun Run.
In addition to the obvious toy store partners, they would also link up with a few other sponsors over the years. These partners often provided an “extra” prize to winners. They included, Kids R Us (obvious), Cap’n Crunch, Tiger Electronics, and Roadmaster Motocykes.
I still have shopping spree fantasies and despite my ever-increasing age, I can’t help but still focus on the idea of clearing out a toy store. Sadly, the last Nickelodeon Super Toy Run (that I could find) was in 2000, and no one has taken up the mantel of sponsoring an annual once since.
I can’t think of a better way to build excitement about shopping in brick and mortar stores, than the idea of a toy run. So if Toys R Us, is able to make a comeback, and they want to energize a younger generation, they might want to look to what worked in the past and team up with Nickelodeon to relaunch a new version of the Super Toy Run.