Heinz, Taylor Swift, and Travis Kelce

The Lempert Report
October 03, 2023

CORRECTION:  Heinz Field is the home of the Steelers, not the Chiefs.

On the Bullseye - There's no denying it – pop culture plays a powerful role in shaping our purchasing decisions. Brands have long understood the value of leveraging celebrity partnerships, moments, and movements to promote their products. But every now and then, a partnership emerges that's so unexpected yet perfectly pitched, it captures the collective imagination.

Enter Heinz, Taylor Swift, and Travis Kelce.

For those who may be slightly out of the loop - which they past week would have been very hard to do, unless you were overcome by the madness in DC and focused on what could have been the government's shutdown, I'll recap: Taylor Swift, the internationally celebrated singer-songwriter who has broken all concert records with her Eras tour, has supposedly been romantically linked to Travis Kelce, the NFL's standout tight end. In a serendipitous twist of fate, Kelce plays for the Kansas City Chiefs – a team synonymous with Heinz Field, and it gets even better.

In a masterstroke of marketing genius, MAYBE, Heinz Ketchup decided to take this golden opportunity head-on as game watchers noticed on September 24th that Taylor Swift was dipping a piece of chicken dipping it in ketchup and what appeared to be ranch dressing. It all started when one fan tweeted a picture of Swift with the concoction which now has over 40 million views. Heinz jumped on the opportunity and came up with a campaign to capitalize - they took an existing product - which most people have never heard of - Kranch and put a new label on it.”Ketchup and seemingly ranch"and went on Twitter to announce that they will be giving away 100 bottles in a contest. As of yet, no rules or information has been posted - just the announcement. On Instagram Heinz's posting has just over 13,000 likes - all it says is: It’s a new Era for Heinz. Introducing Ketchup and Seemingly Ranch. Limited-edition bottles coming soon.

What makes this promotion truly intriguing is its nuance. It's not just about slapping Taylor Swift's face on a bottle or utilizing Travis Kelce's athletic prowess - which Heinz probably couldn't afford to do. Heinz has woven a narrative around the pairing of ketchup and ranch that's authentic and on-brand. And just maybe because of the power of Swift they can actually sell Kranch - which was introduced in 2019 but has barely made a dent. In fact this weekend I went to 9 supermarkets here in Southern California and not one had Kranch on its shelves. It's worth noting that no official statement has been released to suggest that Swift or Kelce directly endorses the product. Instead, Heinz's marketing folks have made a huge impact and is getting major PR on TV news, including  on TODAY, CBS news and NPR, newspapers and of course on social media by moving swiftly (sorry) and getting their campaign up in less than 24 hours. Some, myself included, can argue about the ethics of leveraging Swift's personal relationships for corporate and brand gain. But, you cannot deny the innovative way Heinz has approached this. It's engaging, fun, and memorable. I'm going out on a limb here but I'm imagining that the brains behind this effort was not a stogy 50 year old marketing expert, but a 20-something who's probably a fan of Swifts. If I'm right - reach out to me I'd love to hear from you - Phil@SupermarketGuru.com and we will get you on the webcast next week to tell your side of the story - and of course reveal the rules and how fans can win one of the 100 bottles - or are you going to announce that there is so much buzz you are just going to replace the lagging Kranch with "Ketchup and Seemingly Ranch"?

Yes, it's a cheap social media and marketing shot and yes it worked and yes it's brilliant as everyone beyond Heinz is posting about it on social media. Great free publicity. But let's remember - it still has to taste good. And only time will tell if Taylor and Travis will stand the test of time, yes their pairing has given Heinz a flavor of victory - but its anyone's guess just how long either pairing is going to last.  

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