MasterChef's 'watershed moment' - why Coles, Harvey Norman, a2 Milk, Bulla and Pernod Ricard returned
Following a highly publicised shake up to its panel of judges, Network 10's MasterChef has returned in 2020 with a shiny new set of culinary experts and a refreshed format, but what does a move like this mean for the brands looking to back the long-running cooking contest?
Mi3 spoke with 10 Effect, the network's sponsorship and integration sales unit, Director Tamar Hovagimian who delves into the challenges of walking a brand through a major transition to one of Australia's most well-recognised reality programs.
Addressing brand apprehension with open conversation
Any brand could be entitled to concerns over a show's future, especially when all the talent departs at once, as did MasterChef judges Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris.
10 Effect director Tamar Hovagimian said she immediately put brand partners in the picture: There would be no quick fix cast swap, rather the network would take the opportunity to reboot the series. A new era, as she puts it.
"All of the sponsors were made crystal clear on the future of the show and what would happen with its judges. It’s key for a show like MasterChef, where brands are an extension of the show, more so than other programs in many ways," Hovagimian told Mi3 at the show's launch in Melbourne last week.
"As soon as the theme of 'Back to Win' was confirmed we were back in touch to walk them through what it would look like going forward, as we are creating not just a refresh but the MasterChef 2.0 era."
MasterChef returns in April with a new line-up of judges including Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo and a new format with 24 returning contestants from previous series, all looking for a second shot at the MasterChef title.
Alongside the new content changes are returning sponsors Coles, Harvey Norman, a2 Milk, Bulla and Pernod Ricard (owners of Jacob's Creek).
Hovagimian, who has worked on the program since its launch in 2009, says such a strong line up of returning partners suggests marketers are looking for "comfort" in established, aligned brand exposure opportunities.
"MasterChef is about the food first and foremost, it's not driven by anything else and for a brand that's really important to know they are speaking to the right consumer," she says.
Agencies early thoughts
A straw poll of media agency execs elicited mixed views on the upcoming launch. Some counter Hovagimian's optimism about the returning partners by pointing out some sponsorship berths remain. Others said that was neither unusual not a concern, with opportunities for integration, often appearing later in MasterChef series.
One agency executive said they weren't confident in the show's return until they saw the promo for the latest season and gained a better understanding of what the format and judges meant for the show.
Others pointed to the current state of My Kitchen Rules as a sign that the show and genre may be overcooked, as MKR's new format The Rivals, which has been met with record-low ratings for the series.
But others poured cold water on that suggestion. "MKR and MasterChef are very different types of shows. Where MKR has the sensationalised drama element to it, MasterChef is driven by the cooking and high-profile chefs and talent," said the exec.
"This season of MasterChef could benefit from MKR's decline, which is suffering from content and scheduling issues. Running up against Married at First Sight was a mistake for Seven but could help 10 in the long-run. With fewer eyes on one cooking show, viewers could look to MasterChef as an alternative as MAFS wraps up."
Client case study - a2 Milk season 11 integration
Client: a2 Milk
Campaign aim: Raise awareness of a2 Milk brand messaging and drive sales.
Campaign activation: in-show integration, broadcast & digital sponsorship
Results: Aligning a2 Milk with MasterChef Australia has increased brand equity and brand awareness. Consideration and intent grew significantly amongst the show’s viewers. This translated to the checkout, with the following results coinciding with the on-air period:
- a2 Milk share of Dairy Milk category value increased from 10.8% to 11.4% during the MasterChef campaign (+10.7% value growth)
- Awareness is at an all-time high – 83% now recognise the brand
Client testimonial: a2 Milk Marketing Manager Jane Staska
“a2 Milk is on the threshold of its third season as a staple in the MasterChef pantry. Fresh, delicious a2 Milk from Australian dairy farms has been a favourite with contestants; an inspiration in their quest to become the next Australian MasterChef.
“The a2 Milk | MasterChef Australia partnership has delivered best-in-class product integration with a range of stand-out assets including Challenges and Billboards, Usage Moments and high-quality Incidentals that have elevated a2 Milk as the milk of choice for contestants across the series. Linkage of a2 Milk with positive, uplifting moments for contestants has helped land the brand messaging with impact. Close collaboration with the producers and rigorous attention to detail has resulted in a2 Milk being one of the most recognised MasterChef partners.”
- IRI Aztec, July 2019 QTR vs same QTR YAGO
- EY Sweeney, a2 Milk Brand Health Tracking Report Wave 10, February 2020
- Edentify/Network 10, MasterChef Australia: Sponsorship Effectiveness Study. 2018/ 2019