Spongetowels goes back to Top Chef

Kruger's Spongetowels is expanding its sponsorship of the cooking reality show with a new campaign

There promises to be plenty of absorbing action on the fourth season of Top Chef Canada, with SpongeTowels returning as the official paper towel of the popular reality show.

The Kruger Products-owned brand announced a new slate of initiatives for 2014 this week, including a new Facebook page designed by Toronto’s Fuse Marketing Group (that actually debuted in January) and what the company describes as “enhanced sponsorship” of the Food Network Canada reality show.

In addition to its on-set presence (the brand is displayed on kitchen counters and inside the show’s “stew room,” where chefs wait to hear their fate), the SpongeTowels brand is expanding its sponsorship with the launch of a new campaign called “Messy Moments.”

A series of 15-second spots running across Shaw Media-owned channels will feature footage of the Top Chef Canada chefs cleaning up spills with the SpongeTowels brand.

The on-air component will be supported by in-store activation, including on-pack and on-shelf promotion and prominent product displays. The brand is also inviting viewers to vote for who they think will win each week’s elimination challenge at TopChefCanada.ca.

Viewers have a chance to win weekly prizes and one of two grand prizes – a Top Chef-inspired dinner prepared at their home complete with a full clean-up by the SpongeTowels cleaning crew.

Wendy Mommersteeg, category director, paper towels for Kruger Products, called Top Chef one of the company’s main sponsorship properties in English Canada. The brand is perfectly aligned with a show set in a kitchen, she said, since that is where the majority of household spills occur.

“Consumers love to use products that they see featured on TV shows,” she said. “So we’re driving awareness for and it’s helping drive purchase for our product, so it’s really a win-win for both properties.”

SpongeTowels has been on an upward trajectory ever since it introduced the “Sponge Pockets” characters – developed by Toronto agency John St. – in 2006.

Mommersteeg said the characters demonstrate the efficacy of the product in a way that captures consumers’ attention, with annual tracking studies indicating that consumers have high awareness of Sponge Pockets and associate them with the SpongeTowels brand.

According to a recent Cassies submission, the SpongeTowels brand saw case volume increase 45% and enjoyed a five-point increase in market share between 2006 and 2010. This despite the fact that two brands – Cascades and Kimberly-Clark’s Scott Towels – entered the national market and other companies began providing marketing support. In that time period, sales of the SpongeTowels brand increased 38%, delivering an incremental $13.8 million in sales.

“The Sponge Pockets character is a key component of our communications strategy,” said Mommersteeg. “Consumers really enjoy the character and it’s a great way for us to break through and differentiate our brand.”

Mommersteeg said the paper towel category nationally is a “two-horse race” between SpongeTowels and P&G’s Bounty brand. The company announced this week that SpongeTowels saw 11% growth in overall volume in 2013 – a record year for the brand, said Mommersteeg – even though the paper towel category as a whole declined 2%.

SpongeTowels is a “close second” to Bounty in English Canada, and maintains a market-leading position in Quebec, where the SpongePockets character “Spongie” (played by Quebec stand-up comedian François Massicotte since 2007) enjoys 98% awareness. “He really brings the character to life through his comedic approach,” said Mommersteeg.

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