SpongTowels soaks up Top Chef Canada exposure in grocery

The paper towel maker is leveraging its sponsorship of the popular food show to create excitement in retail and in the category

With its numerous on-air squabbles, cooking mishaps and celebrity judges, reality television doesn’t get much more absorbing than Food Network Canada’s Top Chef Canada.

The high level of viewer absorption – more than 300,000 viewers per episode for the TV broadcast alone – combined with a relevant environment makes Top Chef Canada the perfect environment for Kruger Products’ SpongeTowels brand, which is back for a third year as the show’s official paper towel.

“SpongeTowels are used in the kitchen, so the cooking connection really makes sense for our brand,” said Wendy Mommersteeg, category director of paper towels for Kruger in Mississauga, Ont.

The ongoing partnership with the Shaw Media property includes on-air product integration complemented by in-store activations, on-pack messaging and contesting.

A typical episode of Top Chef Canada sees contestants using SpongeTowels to sop up food spills (reinforcing the current brand positioning of “tackle any mess with SpongeTowels”), while the products are also on display in the so-called “stew room” where Top Chef contestants await the judges’ verdict. During commercial breaks, viewers will also see 30-second TV spots promoting the product.

“It’s just a great way for us to connect with consumers when they’re more than in the grocery environment,” said Mommersteeg of the sponsorship. “They’re more tuned in.”

Kruger Products is also leveraging the sponsorship in its retail channels, including flyers and off-shelf retail displays.

In addition, more than one million SpongeTowels packages currently feature on-pack messaging promoting a contest offering a chance for one viewer to win a cooking demonstration and dinner with Top Chef’s season two winner, Carl Heinrish, at his Toronto restaurant Richmond Station.

Last year, SpongeTowels promoted the contest only during the show’s final four weeks. This year it is promoting it during the show’s entire 13-week run, leading to a marked increase in entries.

The sponsorship also gives SpongeTowels the ability to create some excitement in what Mommersteeg said is a “low-interest” category. “It gives us something exciting that we’re able to leverage in the retail environment,” she said. “We’re able to communicate our sponsorship…so we’re driving people to the show and our customized consumer promotion.”

SpongeTowels is an active participant in the brand integration space. It has previously been featured in the Canadian version of the hit reality show Wipeout as well as the CBC daytime show Steven and Chris and numerous French-language productions.

While Mommersteeg said it’s almost impossible to isolate the impact of Top Chef on SpongeTowels’ sales, she added it is among the market leaders in a category populated by both major brands (Bounty) and numerous private label entrants. The brand controls more than 10% of sales in the category, she said.

“Right now we’re one of the few paper towel brands that is growing in a flat market,” she said, noting that it’s a combination of a premium product with exceptional packaging and “breakthrough” advertising. “It’s kind of hard to tell what is driving what. It’s all part of the package.”

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