Jamie Oliver Leaves Sainsbury's

14 Jul 2011|Added Value

Sainsbury’s and Jamie Oliver are ending their association after more than 11 years and 100 ads together. The relationship is ending by mutual agreement according to Sainsbury’s and draws to a close with a Christmas campaign at the end of the year.

So what did the partnership mean for Sainsbury’s and Jamie Oliver, and what’s likely to come next?



First up, it brings to an end arguably one of the most successful and enduring relationships – a best-in-class example of celebrity endorsement. You could say it’s been a virtuous circle benefitting both parties. Sainsbury’s has cemented a perception for quality food for everyday embodied in the “Try Something New Today” proposition encouraging families to celebrate good food; while Jamie used this new  channel well  to build his own brand awareness and promote his message.

For Sainsbury’s it hasn’t just been about Jamie putting his name to the brand (Kerry Katona / Iceland style), it’s been about drawing on his values to build a more motivating and differentiated brand that owns a distinct space in the market (not just ‘caught’ between Waitrose and Tesco).

That said, both the supermarket and Jamie Oliver have probably come to the end of the road in terms of each getting what they can from the other. Intuitively, it is hard to reconcile and understand what Jamie’s mission to try and remedy the USA’s eating habits does for UK grocery shoppers. He seems to have set his sights on bigger problems than families in the UK (though we still believe he cares about that). And with Delia and Heston working with Waitrose, the celebrity chef link up is losing its novelty too.

Over the years, Jamie’s genuine, down to earth personality has certainly benefitted Sainsbury’s, shifting both brand perception and commercial success and contributing towards strong consumer recall. Importantly, in 2008 when the financial crisis hit, Sainsbury’s was running the risk of being seen as too premium by shoppers – and so too expensive.  Jamie was the perfect and smart fit for their hugely successful “Feed the Family for a Fiver” campaigns at a time when affordability and quality of food were top of mind for struggling families. Both brands emerged as “Peoples Heroes” from the economic crisis, silencing financial analysts who forecast poor results versus other supermarket giants.

Jamie is known for his activism. Consumers are cynical about how much big business actually cares (versus pretends to care) about what could be described as corporate social responsibility-led initiatives. On many occasions Jamie railed against the grocery sector, not shy of risking his relationship as other celebrity endorsers could have. And credit to Sainsbury’s – despite the rows and arguments – it always appeared to listen, respect what he had to say and engaged him in debate. That has been a big win for the supermarket in the eyes of their consumers.

All of this means that Jamie is hard to replace – and maybe Sainsbury’s should not try to.  It would be almost impossible to find another ‘Regular Guy’ to fill his shoes, because the partnership was much less about a celebrity endorsement and more about a genuine affinity between two brands. Sainsbury’s must ensure that the values and character it has built through this partnership remains at the heart of what they do. It has successfully taken its place in the market as an affordable main shopping destination with a slightly more premium and more diverse offer than the other main supermarkets. That’s a powerful platform from which to build its next marketing strategy.


Success Factors for Celebrity Partnerships.

Sainsbury’s and Jamie Oliver have  proven how  brand partnerships can work well.  Tips to consider:

Be clear about the aspirations of your brand

Remember that celebrities are brands too. Brand fit is key to enhance your brand and objectives

Don’t be swayed by popularity or headline grabbers – not all publicity is good publicity

Be genuine about your beliefs.

Be mutual and respect the partnership.

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