The real MVP: Heinz wins the flavour games at the footy

Blog

Meat pies and tomato sauce are one of Australia’s most treasured traditions. Heinz lifted the flavour game by recruiting their limited-edition footy ketchup for a champion footy experience.

Pies at the footy are more than just an Australian tradition. It’s a game-day ritual and family-friendly treat that’s an integral part of the national identity. A crucial partner in this ritual is tomato sauce, but just like sports teams – not all sauces are created equal.

Australia is a proud tomato sauce county and ketchup is viewed as an American product. But here’s the rub: 67% of sauce buyers can’t tell the difference on the shelves. The retail truth is that most tomato sauces are thinner mixtures while Heinz Ketchup offers 167g of concentrated tomatoes per 100ml which equals a thicker, richer sauce with more taste. This isn’t marketing spice: in taste tests, Heinz ketchup has been proven to be the outright champion. Testers found rival tomato sauces to be overly sweet, watery, and bland in comparison.

So, while Heinz knows it has the goods to be the sauce MVP, their challenge is to drive awareness about their greater taste credentials and to earn more market share. Part of this requires breaking the American association and to build affinity for the difference that really matters: the better taste. Heinz Ketchup needs to become part of Aussie pie culture. We know that once the customers taste the sauce, the game is won.

The solution: build an emotional connection with Australians and educate their tastebuds in a key food moment and passion point. Footy is the most attended sport in the country, and it’s favoured by 47% of all Australian consumers. The question is: how do we tackle customer engagement and get them to try the taste-superior Ketchup? We speak to footy fans directly in five games at the biggest venue in a key AFL state, the hallowed Marvel stadium in Melbourne. To make Heinz the flavour champion, we had to play a better tasting and sampling game and harness some man-of-the-match activations.

The Four Winning Plays in the Heinz Ketchup Playbook 
1. Singing the praises of AFL teams and Heinz.
18 limited-edition 500ml 2022 Heinz Ketchup bottle varieties created, one for each AFL team. This strengthened the relationship between Heinz and the AFL and leveraged fan pride on the shelves.

One of the biggest strengths of this campaign was the sauce itself. There were 18 limited-edition 500ml 2022 Heinz Ketchup bottle varieties created, one for each AFL team. This strengthened the relationship between Heinz and the AFL and leveraged fan pride on the shelves. Each bottle also referenced their team’s official chant, which instantly brings up the game experience and team pride at the game and at home. These bottles were available nationwide from Coles, a key AFL partner, in an exclusive deal. This deal included bespoke in-store promotions and smart fan bundles filled with slick branded team merch.

2. Dominating the stadium.
The Heinz activation was carefully placed to engage the highest foot traffic and to make sure we caught as many fans as possible before they went to their seats. The activation itself was a sampling zone and bespoke gaming area filled with a striking combo of Heinz red branding, inflatables, and a green astroturf.

The Heinz activation was carefully placed to engage the highest foot traffic and to make sure we caught as many fans as possible before they went to their seats. The activation itself was a sampling zone and bespoke gaming area filled with a striking combo of Heinz red branding, inflatables, and a green astroturf. This smart branding was extended to a key corporate suite at the stadium, and it was supported by a savvy social media campaign.

3. Sharing the smell (and taste) of success.
The sampling area offered the two team versions of the limited-edition AFL Ketchup, so fans could choose their team’s sample, and they could choose between a meat or vegetarian pie (tough choice as it was only one pie per customer).

The activation didn’t rely on strong visuals alone: the secret winning recipe was the smell of FREE mini pies with Footy Ketchup. The sampling area offered the two team versions of the limited-edition AFL Ketchup, so fans could choose their team’s sample, and they could choose between a meat or vegetarian pie (tough choice as it was only one pie per customer). The skilled activation team then ensured that the Ketchup was expertly served in the signature circle shape and swirl with no gaps, splatters or spaces. Every pie was served on a branded wooden board with a Heinz napkin. Together, the smell and sight of free mini pies caught the eye and nose of every passing footy fan.

4. Playing a better passing game.
Part of the activation included the ‘‘Pass The Heinz’’ Game. Customers could win a branded football if they handballed two balls through two targets.

Part of the activation included the ‘‘Pass The Heinz’’ Game. Customers could win a branded football if they handballed two balls through two targets. This gamification helped reinforce the Heinz and footy partnership and helped drive engagement and time spent at the activation. Best of all – there were no losers. Even if the fans didn’t win a branded football, they walked away with special Heinz clappers with their team chant on it.

The final whistle… 

So, the question is: how did the campaign perform? “Simply getting fans to taste your product can’t be underestimated. This campaign helped footy fans fall in love with Heinz Ketchup and understand it’s a clear winner when paired with your favourite footy foods.” says Gareth Brock, Managing Partner, ANZ.   

This creative sampling and gamification double play helped achieve a few crucial goals, but most importantly, it created a taste experience that converted thousands of tomato sauce users into lifelong ketchup believers. This campaign nailed the must-haves, which was the tomato sauce versus ketchup mass education and building lasting associations between Heinz, AFL and Aussie culture. But it went further: it founded an emotional connection between an individual’s treasured sports team and the hallowed pre-game food moment. It drove brand love and created new touchpoints for footy fans and Heinz. 

Ready to pour this secret sauce of success in your next campaign? Let’s meet for a real or virtual coffee. We’ll help you create engaging experiences with the customers that matter and make sure you earn both digital and real ROI. Want a live sample? Hit us up for a FREE Masterclass


Author bio

MANAGING PARTNER AU

I’m a media and marketing all-rounder, with 15 years’ experience across a range of channels. I’m fascinated by the shop floor and ‘real world’ and love getting out in the field, experiencing the action first-hand, and gathering and sharing consumer insights and knowledge.