Conagra Brands Canada’s snack brand Slim Jim brand has launched its first campaign with Toronto Raptor Chris Boucher—a slender six-foot, nine-inch forward who goes by the brand-friendly nickname “Slim Duck”—after signing him as a brand ambassador last year.
It is the first sports sponsorship deal in Canada for Slim Jim, although the brand has previously partnered with NASCAR in the U.S. and—depending on your definition of “sports”—also featured late wrestler Randy “Macho Man” Savage in its advertising between 1993 and 2000.
Conagra Brands is also in the midst of a sponsorship program with the Toronto Blue Jays’ star slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the BiGS snack seeds brand.
“The success of that partnership is what got us into looking at who we could partner with for Slim Jim,” said Ana Luiza Rangel, Conagra’s senior brand manager, protein snacks.
As a Canadian player with the NBA’s sole Canadian team, the Montreal-raised Boucher ticked a lot of boxes for the brand from a sponsorship standpoint, said Rangel. It helped, too, that he is an avowed fan of the brand. “It was not [a case of him saying] ‘I’ve never heard of this brand.’ He is a fan,” she said. “It was actually quite funny the amount of Slim Jims he ate while we were doing the photo shoot.”
The creative premise for the new campaign is that Boucher has been drafted into the so-called “Long Boi Gang,” an organic nickname for the snack brand that was coined by the Slim Jim fan community several years ago. “It was not something that was top down from Conagra to consumers; it came from consumers and we took advantage of it,” said Rangel.
Developed by Conagra’s longtime agency partner, Per Se Brand Experience, the “I’m with Slim” campaign is running via social media and in-store assets showing how Slim Jim helps Boucher “snap out” of boring situations, most notably post-game press conferences.
It’s a play on the “snap into a Slim Jim” tagline that has been used in Slim Jim’s marketing since U.S agency North Castle Partners discovered through research in the late 1980s that the “snap” of a Slim Jim when people bite into its casing was among the snack’s most distinctive brand assets.
Video assets feature Boucher fielding questions about whether he would keep a Slim Jim with him during a game if he could and is he just going to bite a Slim Jim every time a reporter asks him a boring question. There is also a meme presented by the so-called “Slender News Network” stating that Boucher is “sitting on enough Slim Jims to last a lifetime after signing brand deal.”
Those assets are being supported by an influencer campaign led by Harbinger that is running across social platforms including Instagram, Twitch and TikTok. The content will be “fun” and “unpolished,” said the brand, supported by point-of-sale materials tying back to the partnership. Media for the campaign is from M&K Media.
Meat sticks and beef jerky is both the fastest-growing category within total snacks over the past three years, according to Nielsen data, and among the top 10 in total food over the past year, with a dollar increase of 13%. Meat sticks alone posted $211 million in retail sales during the year ending June 26 (a year-over-year increase of 21%).
Despite the category’s overall growth, Rangel said that Slim Jim, which was invented in the 1940s, is something of a “legacy” brand, and partnering with Boucher gives it some presence and credibility among consumers in their 20s. “We’re trying to be where our target audience is, just to build our brand with that younger consumer,” she said.
As brands like GoDaddy Canada have discovered in the past, there is an inherent risk in aligning with sports stars given the business nature of pro sports. As a free agent after this NBA season, Boucher has been floated as a potential trade target, although Rangel notes that the current campaign is focused on Boucher himself rather than Boucher the Toronto Raptor (the team’s name, logo etc. does not appear in any of the advertising assets).
“I think Chris is staying with the Raptors hopefully for at least the two years that we have him,” said Rangel with a laugh. “If something dramatic happens then we’ll probably have to sit down and talk again… but we’re not aligning with the Raptors. We won’t know unless it happens…but for right now he’s staying put.”