Cheerios is much older than the Super Bowl, yet the famous cereal brand has never been part of the big game’s ad extravaganza.

That will change during the 2014 Super Bowl, when Cheerios gets its star turn, marking General Mills’ first appearance in 18 years on the advertising industry’s biggest stage.

The ad comes at a time when the U.S. cereal business generally has been weak, with sales falling during much of the past three years.

The Cheerios spot could give the brand and maybe even the whole cereal category a boost, said Jack Russo, a stock analyst at Edward Jones. “The brand name is iconic and it really gets equated with the category in general.”

The ready-to-eat cereal world is dominated by Golden Valley-based General Mills Inc. and Michigan-based Kellogg Co. Honey Nut Cheerios is the bestselling U.S. cereal, though classic “yellow-box” Cheerios will get the spotlight in the upcoming Super Bowl ad.

Details for the ad are under wraps. It will be produced by Saatchi & Saatchi NY, including the same creative team behind two recent Cheerios TV spots featuring cute kids and family togetherness. Cue the heartstrings between monster sacks and up-the-gut runs?

Looks like it. “Historically, what’s really worked for Cheerios is emotional storytelling that involves families and children, and connections and relationships,” wrote Camille Gibson, a General Mills marketing vice president, Wednesday on a company blog.

The Cheerios ad will be General Mills’ first during the Super Bowl since 1996, when Wheaties cereal basked in the fame of basketball great Michael Jordan and football stars Deion Sanders and Steve Young.

Super Bowl ads have long been a big investment. This year, 30-second spots went for north of $4 million, trade publication Ad Age reported Wednesday. Fox, which is carrying the game, has sold out its Super Bowl ad inventory.

Despite the cost, Super Bowl advertising usually pays off. “You get earned media right off the bat,” said Jennifer Johnson, a brand strategy professor at the University of Minnesota. She was referring to the free exposure that comes from media coverage of Super Bowl ads.

Plus, advertisements themselves are part of the Super Bowl spectacle; most viewers don’t just fast-forward through them or run to the refrigerator for a snack, Johnson said. “This is one time people really are an audience.”

Richfield-based Best Buy Co. Inc. has been a regular Super Bowl advertiser in recent years. And this year, a small northeastern Minnesota egg farm may get a shot at the big game. Locally Laid Egg Co. is one of four finalists for a 30-second spot in a contest conducted by software company Intuit.