Brand Strategy

Hellmann’s fourth Super Bowl ad continues its tradition of food waste messaging—with a furry twist

This year’s ad from the Unilever brand features Kate McKinnon, Pete Davidson (again), plus a cat and a charitable donation.
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Hellmann’s

· 4 min read

The cat’s out of the bag: Hellmann’s joined the early wave of brands releasing their Super Bowl ads weeks ahead of the game. For its fourth year in the Super Bowl, the brand included two Saturday Night Live alums, a furry friend, and its usual messaging about preventing food waste.

This year, Hellmann’s is leaning into some tried-and-true strategies to capture viewers’ attention: comedians, cats, and humor. In other ways, though, the brand’s marketing team thought outside the box (or the home).

“Over the years, we have really optimized our strategy in terms of thinking about the Big Game as a total campaign in phases,” Chris Symmes, senior marketing director for Unilever North America’s dressings portfolio, which includes Hellmann’s, told Marketing Brew. “This is a bit of a departure from our very first year when we were new to everything, still getting our bearings.”

Kate-y cat: Hellmann’s 30-second ad, which will air in the second quarter of the game, stars Kate McKinnon and cat actor Chipmunk, who plays the role of “Mayo Cat,” a cat who can say (or, rather, meow) the word “mayo.”

When the Hellmann’s team started brainstorming for the campaign last spring, they leaned into puns and wordplay, Symmes said, as they did with last year’s Super Bowl ad starring Brie Larson, Jon Hamm, and a ham and brie sandwich.

“When we realized that ‘meow’ and ‘mayo’ were somewhat interchangeable, it sparked this creative idea for us to feature a cat as a way to deliver our message,” he said.

After testing that idea and several others with focus groups to make sure it felt “Super Bowl-worthy,” Hellmann’s landed on McKinnon as a clear choice given she’s a cat lover, Symmes said. Sure enough, she and Chipmunk hit it off on set, and there was “a lot of chemistry between the two,” he added.

A cameo from Pete Davidson was also a natural addition: He shares McKinnon’s comedic chops and an SNL background, and he’s been in Hellmann’s Super Bowl ads for the past two years.

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Waste not, want not? As Hellmann’s has gotten more experience with Super Bowl advertising, the brand started approaching the game in phases, according to Symmes. Phase One this year involved dropping a teaser on Jan. 22 and releasing recipes for game day, he said. Then there’s the “game-day phase,” he explained, which will begin this week leading up to the Super Bowl, where Hellmann’s will aim to generate earned media.

The post-game phase is when Hellmann’s will tackle its Super Bowl campaign’s message, which has for the past four years focused on a long-running brand initiative aimed at reducing food waste. Increasing awareness of food waste in the days after the Super Bowl is the brand’s main KPI, Symmes said: When Hellmann’s checked in February of last year following the game, conversations about food waste across platforms and news sites was up more than 24% from a benchmark established in 2021.

This year, part of Hellmann’s “Make Taste, Not Waste” initiative includes partnering with the Food Recovery Network in Las Vegas. Hellmann’s plans to donate $100,000 to the nonprofit to “help reduce leftovers after the game and disseminate them to people in need,” Symmes said.

Sphere not: Also on the ground in Vegas, Hellmann’s teamed up with Sphere for an activation starring a 3D version of Mayo Cat that will run from Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, making Hellmann’s the first brand in the Unilever portfolio to appear on the advertising world’s favorite orb.

“We felt that this was such an amazing opportunity to activate on the Sphere leading up to the Super Bowl to harness this new advertising avenue and test new nontraditional platforms” Symmes said. “It really creates a nice thread to what we’re going to be doing for the Super Bowl, and then on the ground in Vegas afterward.”

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