Kraft Heinz takes two approaches to cheering on Olympians

The company's first efforts tied to the Games attempted to find athletes who have similar connections to fans as its brands do.
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Kraft Heinz is entering the Olympic advertising arena, and it hopes that the deep connection Canadians have for its brands translates into something that will tap into the broad reach the Games provide.

First teased last week, both of the company’s campaigns have now launched, and each takes a slightly different tone when it comes to supporting Canadian Olympians.

For Kraft Peanut Butter, the campaign features diver Meaghan Benfeito and beach volleyball duo Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan, performing in front of darkened, empty venues. With fans not being allowed in the stands due to the pandemic, Kraft Heinz is utilizing the brand’s “stick together” positioning to make sure they still feel the support of the fans, who are being encouraged to upload recordings of them cheering, which will be put into a playlist for the athletes to listen to.

Kraft Dinner’s campaign enlists its new sponsor athlete, race walker Evan Dunfee, with a wink and a nod to the fact that race walking isn’t always seen as the most serious or prestigious Olympic event. But that doesn’t mean Dunfee’s accomplishments aren’t impressive and worthy of support, shown when a road worker on the training path – who initially looks at Dunfee with bewilderment – joins his walk in solidarity. That’s something Canadians can do as well by sharing videos of their own race walking on social, with the most inventive getting “KD x ED” swag kits.

Even beyond the fact that these are Kraft Heinz’ first Canadian Olympic campaigns, sponsoring high-profile athletes more broadly is not something typically associated with the company’s family of brands – even the long-running Kraft Hockeyville program was more about supporting community-level sports.

Matt Bruce, senior brand manager for community programming and corporate partnerships at Kraft Heinz Canada, says the opportunity to not only reach Canadians, but drive a deeper emotional connection with them, is a unique opportunity the Olympics provide. And given that Kraft Peanut Butter and Kraft Dinner are uniquely Canadian brands, the “cheering on Canada” aspect was something they could easily and logically celebrate.

But he adds that finding the right athletes to spotlight was a key component of the campaign. “The Kraft Heinz portfolio includes some iconic Canadian brands with a loyal fanbase, and we wanted to find athletes who had the same personal connection to their fans,” Bruce says.

As the campaign shows, Dunfee has been eating KD since he was a kid, and Brian Neumann, associate director of brand building and innovation for Kraft Dinner at Kraft Heinz Canada, says the fact that he doesn’t take himself too seriously was also a perfect fit with the brand’s positioning.

“We wanted to do so in a way that was authentically KD,” Neumann says. “When we came across Evan, we saw how he perfectly embodied the ‘KD Spirit’ of unapologetically pursuing your passion and were surprised at the lack of support being shown to this medal hopeful.”

Daniel Gotlib, associate director of brand building and innovation for Kraft Peanut Butter at Kraft Heinz Canada, says the company has also found that Kraft Peanut Butter is something athletes tend to keep on hand as a snack during training, even bringing it along to international competitions.

Both brands have committed to TV buys as part of CBC’s Olympic broadcasts to reach a broad target, but with slightly different elements amplifying it through the wider campaign. In order to have coverage across several touchpoints and get as many submissions as possible, Kraft Peanut Butter’s campaign includes digital, social, PR and influencers, all of which drive to the Stick Together website. The KD campaign is skewed more towards social, with pre-roll on Twitter’s live Olympic coverage, in-feed and story ads on Instagram and content on TikTok, as well as a micro-influencer campaign showing them doing their own race walks.

Both campaigns were led by Rethink, with Carat handling media and The Colony Project handling PR and influencer engagement.