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March 23, 2005

Sainsbury's to re-sign Jamie Oliver, but what will they do with him?

Colin Grimshaw reports in Marketing this week that Sainsbury's is negotiating to renew their contract with Jamie Oliver:

The supermarket has admitted it is negotiating with Oliver over his contract, which expires in May. The renewal would mark a U-turn for Sainsbury's, which had been widely expected to end its five-year association with the chef.

Johnnie Moore may disagree with me, but I think retaining the link with Jamie Oliver is a smart move.  Here's why:

  1. Brand alignment: Generally, celebrity marketing doesn't work because of poor alignment between the personal brand of the celebrity and the corporate brand of the advertisers. Why would I take banking instructions from Samuel L Jackson, for example? But Sainsbury's sells food; in fact, Sainsbury's CEO Justin King wants to return the focus to food. Jamie Oliver cooks food, writes about food, pretty much lives and breathes food. At least in principle, this is a great celebrity tie in.
  2. Jamie's School Dinners: Jamie is scalding hot right now. His School Dinners scored 5 million viewers - massive for a C4 documentary - and, according to the Marketing article, over 100 MPs have signed his manifesto to improve school food. Even the PM wants to get next to Oliver.

Where I do agree with Johnnie is on the question of authenticity. Taking the obviously passionate Oliver and simply sticking his face on recipe cards to prop up Sainsbury's ITV drama sponsorship seems ludicrously shortsighted to me.

So how could Sainsbury's make better use of Jamie Oliver?

I will throw my hat in the ring with this suggestion: Sainsbury's could get Jamie involved with the Active Kids voucher scheme.

The Active Kids scheme already covers a lot of the same ground as School Dinners - the points go towards health and fitness activities in schools and shoppers get double points when they buy fresh fruit and veg. This seems pretty smart to me: I read in Heart Health, the free magazine from The British Heart Foundation, that in a survey commissioned by the BHF, 6 in 10 parents would prefer to see [supermarket] token schemes limited to healthy foods, even if it meant less money or reduced resources for their child's school.

School Dinners highlights the underfunding problem in school dining rooms. Even if you can get the ingredient budget below the target of 37p, it takes longer to prepare fresh food from scratch than to reheat burgers and pizzas. The dinner ladies - quite rightly - aren't going to work for nothing.

Why not tie the two together? Find a way to put Active Kids points towards an extra hour or two a day for your school's dinner ladies? This would put the Sainsbury's / Jamie Oliver tie in on a completely different level. Sainsbury's would get an instant publicity hit for Active Kids; the relationship with Oliver would be recognisably authentic, and the biggest winners of all would be our school children.

I am going to throw this one open to comments now: what do you think Sainsbury's should do with Jamie Oliver?

Posted by Adrian Trenholm on March 23, 2005 at 07:52 AM in Marketing | Permalink


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It's a good questing Adrian, and a more interesting one than whether they should keep him or not.

You're right, Jamie's stock is definitely high in the wake of his C4 programme. And having a worthwhile cause is a great, and valuable, way to create some impact.

So maybe Sainsbury's need to find a cause of their own to get passionate about... a belief that is not the invention of a marketing department or the figment of a focus group's imagination.

If the new boss wants to "get back to food" well then possible causes trip off the tongue.

But for a cause strategy to really kick butt, I think they'd have to court a bit more controversy. Now that has it's pitfalls.... on the other hand, it could get them to stand out a bit more from the crowd.

Posted by: Johnnie Moore | Mar 23, 2005 7:59:28 PM

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