LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -Muhammad Ali left the boxing ring for the last time 26 years ago, before most of today’s college students were born.

These days, Ali is lending his name, image and reputation as the “Greatest Of All Time” to a snack food aimed at 18-to-24-year olds.

It’s the former heavyweight champion’s first foray into marketing his image since selling most of the rights to his name and likeness for $50 million last year.

The snack food is produced in conjunction with Mars, Inc., through a company called “G.O.A.T.”

It stands for “Greatest Of All Time,” and the snacks hit bookstore shelves at five college campuses on Wednesday, coinciding with Ali’s 65th birthday.

“He transcends generations,” said his wife, Lonnie Ali. “On a global basis, Muhammad is better known than most athletes.”

Marketing experts say the product is a form of “persona branding,” using Ali’s image, name and reputation to induce customers into buying a product.

Other celebrities, including Elvis Presley, stuntman Evel Knievel and civil rights icon Rosa Parks, have made similar moves to set up a continuing stream of revenue for themselves and their families.

“Elvis has been dead since the 70s, and the revenue still pours in,” said Larry Bisig, chairman of the Bisig Impact Group, a marketing and promotions company in Louisville.

Charles Sharp, a professor of marketing at the University of Louisville, said college students may not be aware of the controversies that surrounded

Ali over the military draft and his conversion to Islam during his career.

“They’re going to remember the media-spun image of Ali, which is mostly positive,” Sharp said.

Peter Arnell, founder of the Arnell Group, which helped create the snacks, said Ali’s image as a world-class athlete and humanitarian, as well as a resurgence of interest in him spurred by television specials and a book, give the snacks a “cool factor.”

other brands can’t match.

The response to Ali is off the charts when marketing surveys are taken, Arnell said.

“You can’t escape the power of his brand,” Arnell said. “He is just so current in so many different ways.”

Ali, a Louisville native who now lives in Berrien Springs, Mich., sold 80 percent of the marketing rights to his name and likeness in April to CKX Inc. The deal allows Ali, who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, to retain 20 percent interest in the business.

The snacks, which include fruit crumbles, crunchy mixes and flavored crisps, are given boxing-related names such as Rumble, Shuffle and Jabs. The flavors include “Fruit Fight,” “Thrill-A-Dill-A” and “Slammin’ Salsa.” The snacks are shaped like boxing gloves, medicine balls, ropes, speed bags and body shields.

“For Muhammad, eating smart has been a big part of his success,” Arnell said.

The snacks will first go on sale at Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, the University of Pennsylvania, Ohio State and Yale. Arnell said the snacks could go on sale at 20 more colleges by the beginning of February, with new flavors rolling out every few months.

Arnell and Lonnie Ali wouldn’t say what else G.O.A.T. may produce in the future. Bisig pointed to Knievel’s new line of motorcycles to show the possibilities for future sales of Ali-backed merchandise.

“It will be everything the eye can see and the brain can imagine,” Bisig said.

AP-ES-01-15-07 1808EST

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