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    ‘ALUMNI was such an ambitious idea’: How MasterChef challenges traditional sponsorships

    MasterChef Australia and Crown Resorts launched a new pop-up restaurant, ALUMNI, at Crown Melbourne to promote the new season, seeing a rotating cast of alumni serve dishes at the pop-up restaurant.

    Each ALUMNI chef will take up a rotating residency for three weeks, commencing with Kishwar Chowdhury (16 May-2 June), Callum Hann (6-23 June) and Khanh Ong (27 June-14 July), with a surprise fourth MasterChef Australia chef to be announced in late June. 

    The restaurant is a collaboration between media agency Initiative, integrated creative agency Mediabrands Content Studio, Paramount Brand Studio, and Endemol Shine Australia.

    Ahead of its opening on 16 May, head of integration and partnerships, Paramount Brand Studio Tamar Hovegimian; Crown Resorts EGM of brand and marketing Yolanda Uys; chief strategy and product officer at Initiative Chris Colter; head of original and integrated content, Mediabrands Content Studios Angélica Naranjo; and Endemol Shine’s director of content, Melbourne Marty Benson all spoke with Mediaweek about how the project is challenging traditional brand sponsorships. 

    How does the ALUMNI project challenge traditional brand sponsorships?

    Hovagimian: This partnership feels more like a collaboration, rather than a traditional sponsorship, which I think sets it apart from the norm. We obviously aim for this level in all of our partnerships, but this one stands out given the unique approach and the scale behind it.

    We’re all effectively working together to create an authentic experience for MasterChef fans, and I think our collective expertise in our respective fields have all come together to bring this project to life, which makes it truly something special and unique, at a scale we’ve not really seen before.

    ‘ALUMNI was such an ambitious idea’: How MasterChef challenges traditional sponsorships

    Tamar Hovagimian, Paramount ANZ

    How is ALUMNI supporting emerging chefs while executing an effective campaign for the MasterChef brand?

    Uys: ALUMNI is providing a platform for these emerging chefs to showcase their craft to the thousands of guests who visit Crown Melbourne’s world-class restaurants and bars each day. Discovering diverse and talented Australian cooks is at the heart of the MasterChef brand and ALUMNI is a wonderful celebration of this legacy. This collaboration not only elevates the profile of these emerging chefs, but also brings the MasterChef brand to life for Australian foodies, extending beyond the TV screen to a tangible dining experience.

    Yolanda Uys

    This partnership is a key part of the continued evolution of Crown’s brand, positioning our resorts as leading entertainment destinations in Australia. Food is a key pillar of this, so this partnership is a fitting execution to bring this pillar to life and continue our commitment to bringing interesting experiences to our guests and cities.

    What was the strategy behind the idea?

    Colter: The best sponsorships are those where a brand looks to contribute and evolve the experience, as opposed to just surrounding it. Whenever we look at opportunities for brand alignments and to create cultural impact, we always look at where are the areas that we have a role to play, a meaningful role to play, in that ecosystem.

    Now, what I would say is that Crown is a very iconic but also an equally ambitious brand. They want to be seen as a world-class entertainment destination, whether that is dining, music, sport, events, hospitality or all of the above. The strategy that sat behind this was, you’ve got to earn your crown to be a world-class entertainment brand. So, you need to create experiences that no other brand has, will, or can, and drive that sort of fervor in culture.

    Chris Colter

    With dining being a core passion pillar, MasterChef was obviously top of our radar. As arguably the most iconic dining property that exists in culture and has been so for years, we saw an opportunity to tap into that, but also to create new ‘news’ and elevate the show, to further broaden the experience that fans have grown to love over the years. Now we’re actually enabling fans to not just see the amazing food but taste it. And I think that for us was the really rich opportunity.

    What I would like to say on this as well is that ALUMNI was such an ambitious idea. One of those ideas you can easily put to a client, and get a response like, ‘Oh wait, not only do I have to pay for the sponsorship, but I’ve got to then set up and fund a restaurant… I’ve got to do all of this extra heavy lifting on top of agreeing to the sponsorship itself?’ We appreciate the costs and the orchestration of an idea of this magnitude are second to none but so was the opportunity.

    Testament to the marketing team at Crown and the entire organisation for also seeing this opportunity for what it’s worth, and the fact that it’s performing so well so early just shows that if you actually go all in on an idea and you do it properly, the commercial returns are magnified.

    How was the strategy executed effectively?

    Naranjo: We knew that our main role in bringing this to life was to make sure those credentials around delivering world-class unique experiences was always front of mind.

    We weren’t going down a traditional road of integration into a single IP touchpoint around the broadcast. Obviously, that’d be the most obvious one, but it had to be a living, breathing thing that expanded across the entire Crown ecosystem and across MasterChef as well and to play to both of those strengths.

    So, we looked at the arsenal of an ALUMNI night that the show has amassed through its previous 15 seasons, but we also looked at how Crown’s own superstar talent like Guillaume Brahimi have been connected to the show to make sure that we were telling something that felt cohesive to a MasterChef fan, but it also had to appeal to foodies out there.


    Angélica Naranjo

    I think the task that we focus on the most to successfully deliver an integration, and it’s certainly the case for this one, is how we nailed the use of the IP and the talent.

    Like the idea itself, it’s been honestly an ever-evolving exercise of collaboration, tissuing, stretching, pulling down ideas, bringing them back on up again with Crown, Paramount, and Endemol, because every single touch point of IP is completely deliberate and purposeful in how it’s promoting not only the ALUMNI restaurant experience itself, but other venues across Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

    We had the double job of creating this restaurant, but making sure that we are talking about the Crown master brand and delivering to the business.

    How does this project demonstrate the maturity of the franchise and IP?

    Benson: The fact that we’re still getting new sponsors in season 16 shows the strength of our brand. But equally, we’ve also had the same major sponsor in Coles from the very beginning. And there’s a reason for that. It’s like they’re a perfect match for us, Coles and MasterChef. And I think Crown coming in and joining MasterChef is another perfect match.


    Marty Benson

    Crown and MasterChef are both power brands in Australia and both lean into food. Another reason why it’s a perfect match is because MasterChef is all about realising our contestants’ dreams, and most of our contestants dream of going into the food space and opening up their own restaurants.

    But having the opportunity like this to run your own service in that incredible space in Crown, for a certain amount of time, to really get a taste of it, is just unbelievable. But also, I think the maturity in the brand is the fact that Crown trusts MasterChef contestants to come in and own the space within Crown, that speaks volumes.

    It was really hard to decide who would be the best for this, but we wanted different types of food and Australian culture. With Callum, Khanh, and Kishwar, you’ve got modern Australian, Vietnamese, and Indian and it’s such a beautiful spread of cuisines.

    Colter: All too often, we see particularly reality shows spike and go down because the novelty’s worn off. The fact that MasterChef is breaking records in terms of viewership this year just shows it’s not just a mature program, but it’s still fresh, it’s still exciting, it’s still got energy behind it.

    What the guys at Endemol and Paramount are doing around continually pushing the format forward, the way they’re bringing the marketing to life in a really innovative, future-forward way, and inviting sponsors to enrich the story of MasterChef is delivering on the actual promise of the property itself.

    MasterChef Australia is produced by Endemol Shine Australia (a Banijay company). The format was created by Franc Roddam and represented internationally by Banijay Rights.

    MasterChef Australia’s Season 16 premiere recorded a total TV national reach of 1,423,000, a total TV national audience of 776,000, and a BVOD audience of 57,000.

    The post ‘ALUMNI was such an ambitious idea’: How MasterChef challenges traditional sponsorships appeared first on Mediaweek.

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