Is Waitrose putting all its eggs in the Fat Duck’s basket?

Waitrose has revealed it is launching a branded range with its celebrity chef brand ambassador Heston Blumenthal. Is Waitrose hoping its affiliation with the chef will mirror the success of Sainsbury’s partnership with Jamie Oliver or is it hinging too much on the tie up?

Brand ambassadors are all the rage again, but at what point does a celebrity tie up stop being effective and become overkill?

Sainsbury’s has successfully leveraged Jamie Oliver and his cult following for the past seven years. He fronts the supermarket’s advertising campaigns, his recipes promote Sainsbury’s produce, he is an ambassador for its Active Kids initiative and his political agenda of improving the state of the nation’s eating habits fits in with Sainsbury’s own agenda for healthy eating habits.

Since March this year, Waitrose has been relishing a celebrity-fronted campaign with Blumenthal and national treasure Delia Smith.

As well as TV ads and a comprehensive campaign to promote recipes and food products, the pair also front the YouTube channel Waitrose launched in June as part of the grocer’s plan to widen its engagement through digital channels.

The “Heston from Waitrose” range of 20 products will launch in October and the intention is to bring some of Blumenthal’s screwball foods into Waitrose stores and “ensure that the special Heston touch is accessible to all Waitrose customers”.

Blumenthal is culinary flavour of the day and appeals because of his zany approach and bizarre culinary creations made famous by his Fat Duck restaurant and TV series, while Smith’s revived appeal is more traditional and sedate.

Despite the current appeal of both these chefs to Waitrose customers and prospective customers, I’m not convinced the partnership has the same ring of longevity to it that Sainsbury’s has achieved with Oliver.

I could be wrong but I think that Waitrose has better and more interesting things going on as a business and it would be a shame for the grocer to hinge all its marketing on what, in my opinion, is a transient pairing with Blumenthal the wacky chef.

There’s discussion about celebrity brand ambassadors on Marketing Week’s LinkedIn group page. Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the forum or post them directly in response to this story on the Marketing Week website.

This week Marketing Week’s cover story looks at the future of retail and my colleague Lucy Handley reveals the five new rules of retail.

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