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.