Maximum Marathon Part 1: The Wrappers!

CC_Maximum Marathon TITLE PLATE

This week I’m returning to one of my favorite brands with a series of three posts dedicated to the topic of the 1970’s classic Mars Marathon bar.  Today we’re going to take a look at the various evolutions of Marathon’s wrapper design that carried it from launch all the way through its eventual discontinuation.

I first covered Marathon back in February of 2012 with my Mad About Marathon post.  Within that I discussed my love of the brand and how I came to track down the prized Marathon bar wrapper now in my collection.   That same month I would also investigate how Mars had originally introduced the Marathon bar in Europe nearly two years before its USA debut, but under the 3-Musketiers brand name.

As my research deepened, I discovered that the origins and history of Marathon were more serpentine than I could have ever guessed, but made all the more fascinating by the twists and turns the story took.

During that initial coverage last year, I wasn’t sure what the very first version of the Marathon bar wrapper looked like.  I knew I had an early example in my collection, but I couldn’t be sure it was the first design.  Typically, launch wrappers or “rookies” as I like to call them include  a “New!” call-out, but it turns out that was not the case with Marathon.

Here is an early trade clipping that announces the introduction of Marathon – a “new bar for M&M/Mars”:

Mars - Marathon - New Bar for M&M-Mars - candy trade announcement clipping - November 1973

Marathon – New Bar for M&M-Mars – candy trade magazine clipping – November 1973

That initial press release featured a Marathon wrapper with a 15-cent printed-on price.  Here’s a closer look:

Mars - Marathon - candy trade announcement clipping close-up

Mars – Marathon – candy trade announcement clipping close-up

The wrapper featured in that initial release is the same as the early example I happened to have in my collection.  It’s nice to finally be able to verify that this example is, in fact, a “rookie wrapper” for the Marathon bar:

Marathon bar wrapper - M&M Mars - 1973-1974

M&M/Mars – Marathon – debut style – 1 3/8 oz. chocolate candy bar wrapper –  – 1973-1974

By 1976, the Marathon wrapper had lost its printed-on price tag, but in exchange it gained a UPC code.  Other notable changes included the color differentiation of inches and centimeters on the ruler, as well as the addition of the Marathon logo printed on the reverse.  This mid-70’s Marathon wrapper design is also the one that lasted the longest:

Mars - Marathon - candy wrapper - 1976

Mars – Marathon – 1 1/4 oz. chocolate candy bar wrapper – 1976

The next major evolution for Marathon’s wrapper design occurred in 1979, when distribution was handed to M&M/Mars’ Snack-Master division.  It was at this point that the “M” in Marathon became more prominent:

Mars - Marathon bar - chocolate wrapper - 1979

Mars – Marathon – 1 3/8 oz. chocolate candy bar wrapper – 1979

The following year the iconic “color-wave” behind the logo was dropped in favor of the single, bright yellow color:

    Mars - Marathon bar - chocolate candy wrapper - 1980 - Image courtesy Jon Mankuta

Mars – Marathon – 1.2 oz chocolate candy bar wrapper – 1980 – Image courtesy Jon Mankuta

In 1981, another distinctive element of Marathon’s wrapper design was dropped when the printed ruler was removed from the package back, instead opting for a cleaner, streamlined look.  This was almost certainly the wrapper design that graced the final Marathon bars that sold:

Mars - Marathon - candy wrapper - 1981

Mars – Marathon – 1.1 oz chocolate candy bar wrapper – 1981

And so after nearly a decade of deliciousness, the glorious run of the Marathon came to an end in the early 1980’s.  During that period, the Marathon bar’s wrappers never received a major overhaul, just small tweaks along the way.  Even so, I hope you can appreciate this closer look back at the incremental changes that subtly altered the look of this former candy isle star.

Since writing about Marathon last year, not only did I learn of its origins, but I also found a specific wrapper I’d been hoping to uncover – one for a Fun-Size Marathon!

Seeing as how part of the charm of the Marathon was the specific length and size of it, a Fun-Size offering might seem counter-intuitive, and it is.  Even so, they became a big part of Marathon’s marketing.   Here’s the wrapper:

Mars - Marathon - Fun-Size - chocolate candy bar wrapper - 1970's

Mars – Marathon – Fun-Size – chocolate candy bar wrapper – 1970’s

Here’s an image that shows how the Fun-Size wrapper looks next to a full-size.  It also gives you an idea of the scale of it (as best I can tell, rather than a miniature Marathon, the Fun-Size appears to have simply been a sectioned piece of a full-width bar):

Marathon Fun-Size comparison

Marathon Fun-Size comparison

The next Marathon piece I’d like to track down for my collection would be a Fun-Size multi-bag.  I’ve never come across one, but I’m sure one is out there somewhere.  Here’s a vintage newspaper ad showing what one would have looked like:


Marathon -Fun-Size newspaper ad/refund- Wednesday-December 11, 1974

And that’s everything for today’s coverage and part one of our three-day Maximum Marathon coverage.

We’ll be back tomorrow discussing the marketing of Marathon with an emphasis on Marathon John and the “Quick” character commercials.  Along with that, we’ll be premiering a never-before-seen Marathon bar commercial spot – one that is sure to become a Exclusive classic!

See you next time!

About Jason Liebig

A New York City based writer, editor and sometimes actor. After spending much of the 1990′s in the comic book business helping tell the stories of Marvel Comics’ X-Men as series editor, he has since split his time between developing his own entertainment properties while still consulting and working on others. Having been described as “the Indiana Jones of lost and forgotten candy”, Jason is one of the country’s premier candy collectors and historians with his discoveries appearing in countless blogs, magazines, newspaper articles, and books. Always happy to share his knowledge and unique perspectives on this colorful part of our popular culture, Jason has consulted with New York’s Museum of Food and Drink and has also been a featured guest on Food Network’s Heavyweights, France’s M6 Capital, and New York’s My Google Profile+
This entry was posted in 1970's, 1980's, Chocolate, Mars and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Maximum Marathon Part 1: The Wrappers!

  1. dig sandy says:

    This is great! Marathon was definitely my favorite candy bar, and I was so mad when they discontinued it. Still don’t know why they don’t bring it back, lol.

  2. Pingback: Snik Snak – M&M/Mars’ 1970′s Answer to Kit Kat! |

  3. Pingback: Bazooka’s Big Buddy – A “Big Stick” Bubblegum History 1968-1984! |

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *