Most people don't talk about mayonnaise - especially their love for it. While Americans are loud and proud when it comes to their love for other condiments like ketchup and mustard (there are "I Just Really Love Ketchup" t-shirts and news headlines stating “The Healthy Case for Putting Mustard on Everything”) mayonnaise sees no public outcry of love and support. In fact, the condiment held just 12% of share of voice vs. other key condiments in media conversation - from news to social buzz to online forums - from August 2018 to August 2023. (1)
In contrast to other condiment lovers, mayo lovers tend to enjoy their beloved condiment in secrecy and silence because of its polarizing reputation: it elicits extreme reactions on both sides of the fence. But this silence is deafening for a mayo brand like Hellmann’s, who wants its fans to be as loud and proud as other condiments’ fans.
But following the NFL Draft in April 2023, an old clip of former-Kentucky quarterback Will Levis resurfaced squeezing mayonnaise into his coffee. The clip quickly went viral, receiving thousands of views on social media and generating headlines in leading sports publications including Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports.
Hellmann's decided to tap into the virality around Will Levis’ mayo-coffee habit to generate more widespread conversation around mayonnaise and Hellmann’s, drive a key message that game day eating occasions are Hellmann’s occasions and grow positive media sentiment in conversation and coverage mentioning ‘Mayonnaise’ and/or ‘Hellmann’s’.
Will Levis’ viral video clip led many to not only question his coffee habits, but his decision-making abilities both on and off the field. Although he was rumored to be a high first-round-pick just days before the NFL Draft in April 2023, Levis went unchosen in the first round - the only player present who wasn't selected. NFL fans pointed out that his public PDMA (Public Display of Mayo Affection) possibly led to his fall down the draft board. We knew we had to do something to jump to his defense, as he had stood on the side of mayonnaise when so few do.
This inspired our strategy: to transform the secret and private world of mayo-fandom into a public movement by tapping into the very public cultural conversation around Will Levis' may habits. He would serve as a poster child for all mayo-lovers hiding in the shadows to bring their love into the public, too.
Coincidentally, the same day headlines emerged that Will Levis was overlooked as an NFL Draft pick, NBA star Kevin Durant signed a lifetime contract with Nike. This led our team to an idea for an even richer, creamier contract for Will: to become the first athlete to sign a contract for a lifetime supply of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise.
We achieved the near-impossible of executing a contract mid-season with an NFL star, and filmed content in a matter of weeks. And to make this deal unmissable, we filmed a mock press conference, featuring Will taking Q&A from reporters while pouring mayo into his coffee, sipping nonchalantly on his signature coffee drink, and then dolloping the condiment all over his muffin.
Once content was locked, our team crafted and executed a targeted and comprehensive media strategy meant to bolster our talent and drive positive brand mentions. A week prior to launch, top tier media were offered interviews with Levis under embargo. And on launch day, top tier media across a wide range of verticals were targeted with compelling pitches, driving a second surge in coverage as our embargoed interviews went live.
To launch with a bang, our team and Will shared collaborative story and in-feed Instagram posts to release the mock press conference to respective social media audiences. This ensured the campaign would reach mayo-lovers, sports-lovers, and everyone in between. As a result, our team saw the announcement explode in popularity on TikTok and Instagram, fueling coverage of our trending announcement to lifestyle and sports outlets that seldom cover food or condiment news, like the popular Barstool Sports.
Thanks to our embargoed outreach, widespread pitching, social content and a touch of paid, the Will Levis x Hellmann’s Partnership was a touchdown (Yeah, that’s right - we said it).
We broke through in national news and sports outlets, generating over 600 media placements and 4.6+B impressions (2) - more than 44X the team’s KPI goal - in major outlets including the NYPost and Sports Illustrated. 100% of coverage connected game day eating occasions with Hellmann’s occasions, surpassing our goal of 80%. (3)
The campaign led to an increase in consumer engagement with and around Hellmann's. As a result of earned coverage, social tactics and paid amplification of campaign content, media mentions of Hellmann’s increased 36% MoM (from 3.1K to 4.3K) (4). We grew positive conversation around mayonnaise and Hellmann’s with 98% of coverage surrounding the announcement positive. Media sentiment around 'mayonnaise' increased from 23% to 25% positive (+ 9%) in the two months following the campaign vs. the two months prior (5) (6) and media sentiment around Hellmann's shifted from 23% to 46% positive (+100%) within the same period. (7) (8)
Hellmann’s experienced tangible YOY sales growth in two key markets including Kentucky (where he was QB at University of Kentucky) and Tennessee (where he plays for the Tennessee Titans). (9)
Following our campaign, the mayo magic took hold as Will Levis was named starting quarterback for the Titans. And a coffee shop in Nashville even brought the ‘Mayo Mocha’ to life for mayo fans to enjoy, a drink mentioned during the mock press conference.
Our campaign undoubtedly proved just how loud and proud mayo-lovers can be, successfully placing Hellmann's right at the center of that love fest.