Johnsonville Sausage has addressed what until now had been the missing link in its Canadian marketing strategy: A celebrity pitchman.
The brand has partnered with Food Network Canada and its popular series Chopped Canada on a new promotion that also includes a one-year agreement with celebrity chef–and Chopped Canada judge–Mark McEwan.
The partnership is built around a trio of 60-second how-to spots running online. They feature McEwan preparing food items (crostini with sausage ragout and ricotta cheese, maple syrup sausage with sweet potato hash with poached eggs and hollandaise, and steamed clams and mild Italian sausage with tomato broth) using Johnsonville products.
Created by Johnsonville’s Milwaukee agency Cramer-Krasselt, the three spots drive viewers to the Johnsonville.ca site, where they can watch longer versions of each recipe video.
A dedicated microsite promotes a contest called “How do you Johnsonville, which invites entrants to share the three local ingredients they think would best pair with Johnsonville sausages. Winners receive a round-trip to Toronto that includes a three-night stay at a luxury hotel and a meal at McEwan’s upscale restaurant, Bymark.
Digital and social media advertising, as well as a live Twitter party with McEwan, will complement the contest. Toronto-based social media agency Matchstick, which worked on a Johnsonville campaign last year, is also involved.
The initiative represents a “bit of a departure” from the company’s typical go-to-market approach, said Fitzgerald. “In the past it’s been more about the whimsical and the comedic, and we found that, especially in Canada, food is closer to the soul and way more personal, and that we could connect on a whole new visceral level.”
McEwan, who also operates a Toronto-based specialty grocery store bearing his name and has his own cookware line (Mark McEwan by Greenpan) is also appearing in a series of 30-second TV spots, and will also act as a Johnsonville representative at live events.
“We expect to have a very long and deep relationship with Mark,” said Bob Fitzgerald, director of international business for Johnsonville Sausage in Sheboygan Falls, WI. “His focus on quality, on flavour and delivering the experience is so aligned with where we are as an organization and where our brand lives, it was a perfect partnership.”
The objective of the Chopped Canada and McEwan partnerships, said Fitzgerald, is to position Johnsonville products as a “secret weapon” for families when preparing dinner.
The new initiative coincides with the launch of six new 375-gram Johnsonville products in Canada, including four new entries in the ready-to-eat beef category (Smoked Beef Sausage, Beef and Cheddar Cheese, Beef and Cracked Black Pepper and Hot Beef Sausage).
While Johnsonville is known primarily as a pork sausage producer, Fitzgerald said the new products are aimed at consumers seeking an alternative protein choice. He said that there is an “unmet need” for beef products in the “super-premium” space in which it competes.
Johnsonville’s Canadian product assortment fluctuates between 27 and 32 SKUs and it controls just over 20% of the market. According to Fitzgerald, the brand has been growing “significantly” in Canada since its debut 15 years ago, and has identified the country as one of its key growth markets.
It recently spent approximately eight months conducting what Fitzgerald described as an “in-depth” study of Canadians that saw company representatives eating dinner and shopping with everyday consumers across the country.
“We really got to know consumers and identified what drives the decision about what to make for dinner, lunch or breakfast,” said Fitzgerald. “We found that consumers usually want to know that the product is quality, it’s made by craftsmen and love the idea of a family-owned, privately held company that’s been doing the same thing in the same place for 70 years.”