H.J. Heinz Co., which is known as a frugal advertiser, is about to make the biggest marketing investment there is, pouring millions of dollars into a Super Bowl spot for its namesake ketchup.
"Heinz's participation in the Super Bowl is an opportunity to remind consumers of the love they have for this iconic brand," Bill Ulrick, senior brand manager for Heinz North America, said in a statement. "The commercial investment is part of a larger effort to renew our commitment to engage with our great fans."
The 30-second spot from agency-of-record Cramer-Krasselt, Chicago, is only the second Super Bowl ad in the brand's history, the last one coming 16 years ago. Ad buys for the game are estimated to be in the range of $4 million for 30 seconds this year. Heinz did not confirm during which quarter the spot will run.
The ad will "highlight the belief that when someone picks up a bottle of Heinz Ketchup, they're triggering all the happy memories they've experienced over the years where Heinz was present," the company said.
It's a surprising move for a company that has traditionally spent very little on advertising, given its size. H.J. Heinz Co. -- whose brands also include Ore-Ida and Smart Ones -- spent $50.4 million on measured media in 2012, failing to crack Ad Age's list of the nation's 100 top ad spenders, according to Kantar Media. The buy also comes several months after the company was purchased by a private-equity group that includes 3G Capital, which is known for cost-cutting and has reportedly slashed hundreds of jobs at Heinz.
Rick Shea, a marketing consultant and former packaged food company executive, speculated that the ad could be as much about raising Heinz's corporate profile as selling more ketchup. "From a pure ROI standpoint, if you just looked at it as the ketchup business, the Super Bowl ad traditionally hasn't made sense for them."
But with the company rumored to be considering acquisitions of other food brands, the ad could serve to "make them more attractive as an acquirer to another company," Mr. Shea said. He added: "The company you are acquiring is going to want to have a feeling they are being acquired by strong company with good results with good brands."
The other possibility is that Heinz is looking to raise its global awareness, which the Super Bowl spot could help achieve, he said.