Most people remember The Monkees for their music and popular TV show, but the group also had a hand in promoting one of the most popular toys today. In a Kool-Aid commercial, The Monkees used Nerf Balls, making the toys a top seller. Here’s how it happened.
In the ’60s, The Monkees ruled the entertainment industry
The Monkees were a ’60s rock group made up of Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork, and Davy Jones. TV producers put the musicians and actors together for a TV show called The Monkees.
Despite being manufactured for a teen TV show, The Monkees’ music was hugely popular. The band churned out hits like “I’m a Believer,” “Daydream Believer,” “Last Train to Clarksville,” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”
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A Kool-Aid commercial with The Monkees made Nerf a household name
The band’s success meant plenty of companies wanted them to promote their products. In 1970, The Monkees appeared in a Kool-Aid commercial. At this point, Tork had already left the band, buying out his contract the previous year.
The 1970 commercial was the last time Dolenz, Jones, and Nesmith would appear together for over a decade. The Kool-Aid ad shows the remaining Monkees tossing Nerf Balls around a living room. The toy company had partnered with Kool-Aid. Anyone who sent in Kool-Aid packet tops would receive one of the soft and squishy balls. Nesmith left The Monkees shortly afterward, recording his first solo album, Magnetic South.
As Fandom explains, the original Nerf Ball was released in 1969 and was advertised as the “world’s first indoor ball.” The squishy ball could be tossed around inside the house and at other kids without the risk of breaking anything or hurting anyone.
The Nerf Ball sold 4.5 million units in the first year of its release, and many have pointed to The Monkees’ Kool-Aid commercial as the reason why it sold so well. Nerf is now one of the biggest toy companies in the world, selling toy guns and sports equipment — all made out of the same foam material.
The Monkees’ continued pop-cultural impact
Pushing Nerf to the top of the toy market wasn’t The Monkees’ only impact on pop culture. In addition to dominating the music and television industry, the band starred in a successful line of comic books.
In the ’90s, Monkeemania came back in a big way. Jones, Dolenz, and Tork teamed up for a Pizza Hut commercial (joined by Beatles drummer Ringo Starr) and appeared in episodes of Boy Meets World and The Brady Bunch Movie.
VH1 even released a group biopic in 2000, called Daydream Believers: The Monkees’ Story. The Monkees continued to tour without Nesmith until Jones died in 2012. Nesmith had joined the band for a handful of performances but largely stayed away from The Monkees.
The Monkees toured in 2012 and 2014, then again in 2015 without Nesmith. Tork died in 2019 and Dolenz and Nesmith started performing together. Nesmith died in 2021, just a few days after finishing a tour with Dolenz.