Yesterday Heinz announced that it would be running an ad on the 2014 Super Bowl. This is a big surprise; Heinz hasn’t advertised on the Super Bowl in more than a decade.
The brand isn’t an obvious candidate. It is a mature, stable business with little competition. In addition, this is off-season. People aren’t buying ketchup for picnics in early February.
But this is not a normal time at Heinz.
In June, an investment group including Warren Buffet and Brazilian private equity group 3G Capital purchased Heinz.
Since then, the company has been in disarray. The new management team fired almost 2,000 people from staff roles and announced the closure of three plants in North America.
McDonald’s dropped Heinz in October.
Fortune Magazine ran a long story the same month attacking the new management team.
Sales have been slumping, with revenue down about 6% in North America in the latest period, a notable figure for a company with big, mature brands.
The Super Bowl buy is clearly a move to stabilize the company. It is a symbolic gesture. The unspoken goal is to let employees, customers, suppliers and partners know that the new executives at Heinz aren’t just determined to slash costs and fire people. They also want to invest and build the business.
It has been a rough few months for Heinz. The Super Bowl ad is a bid to shift the focus and generate some positive news.