Jimmy John’s makes its Super Bowl debut with a Brad Garrett spot from Anomaly
Jimmy John’s is bringing its sandwich game to the Super Bowl for the first time in a character-driven campaign that the sandwich chain saw first and then decided to run nationally on advertising’s biggest night.
The premise of Brad Garrett starring as “The King of Cold Cuts,” Tony Bolognavich, was one that Anomaly presented to Jimmy John’s when it was pitching for the creative account last year. The MDC Partners shop won the sandwich shop's business in November.
Anomaly LA brought in Craig Gillespie to direct the initial work and shot the campaign in Los Angeles in early January. After taking a look at the footage meant for a regional buy, the Jimmy John’s team led by Chief Marketing Officer Darin Dugan made a case for the spot to be a national TV spot.
“It became clear to us that it was Super Bowl-worthy and now was the time,” says Dugan. And leadership at parent company Inspire Brands agreed.
Meanwhile, sandwich competitor Subway, which is in its first season as an NFL sponsor, has no plans to run any ads during the Super Bowl.
Jimmy John’s, which suffered early on during the coronavirus pandemic, is counting on its “Meet the King” spot airing during the first half of the game as it tries to keep its sales recovery going.
The spot shows Garrett’s anti-hero Bolognavich lamenting the rise of Jimmy John’s—or “Jimmy’s John’s,” as Garrett’s character calls it. His ways of cutting corners with questionable meat and bread have made him a success story. But they don’t meet Jimmy John’s standards for quality or customization.
“I got turkey and ham, made by science,” Garrett says, gesturing air quotes as he says the word turkey.
A 30-second spot will run nationally. Viewers watching the game in key Jimmy John’s markets including Chicago, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Minneapolis, Omaha and St. Louis will see a 60-second version.
Spending was not disclosed, but with national ad buys running roughly $5.5 million for 30 seconds, it's a pricey bet by Jimmy John's. According to Technomic, Jimmy John's was the 34th largest U.S. restaurant chain, with $2.1 billion in sales, in 2019, the year it was purchased by Inspire Brands. Subway, meanwhile, fell to No. 6 in that ranking.
In the extended cut, after Bolognavich sets fire to a Jimmy John’s billboard, the sign then falls, crushing his Cadillac.
“This is war, sandwich war,” he declares at the end of the spot.
A war that is set to continue.
“This was never meant to be a singular moment,” says Josh Fell, chief creative officer, Anomaly LA. “This is the beginning of a long-term character, hopefully.”
Jimmy John's most recently worked with Work In Progress, and before that with FCB Chicago.
Jimmy John’s is known for its “freaky fast” delivery and has also emphasized “freaky fresh” ingredients in past marketing. But Dugan, who joined the chain last year, says he felt “the story wasn’t coming through."
Jimmy John’s is one of many restaurants facing a challenging time during COVID-19. The chain lost almost half of its business in the second quarter of 2020, then stabilized in the second half of the year and regained most of the lost business, helped by promotional codes and value offers that marked its first use of discounts, says Dugan.
The sandwich chain didn’t need to offer deals in pre-COVID times, as many of its shops are right by major downtown office areas and in college towns, where lines moved quickly during the lunch rush and it had that “freaky fast” delivery.
Now, Dugan says, the brand needs to find the right cadence of offers. “Value’s not going anywhere with our competitors,” he says.
The campaign timing lines up with the Feb. 8 national introduction of chicken to its menu for the first time, a limited time Smokin’ Kickin’ Chicken sandwich. Ads for that shredded chicken sandwich are set to debut next week.
Jimmy John’s is also updating its brand identity and logo that it worked on with ChangeUp.
Overall, about 40% of the brand’s budget is dedicated to digital and social. Bolognavich’s character will begin to show up on social media.
"We have to build a new presence for him," says Fell.
Jimmy John’s is running an extended 1:47 cut of the Super Bowl spot online.