With roles in the summer blockbuster Barbie and 2021’s MCU movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, it seems like everything Canadian actor Simi Liu touches these days turns to gold.
Or, could that be because of the “cheetle” dust on his fingertips, courtesy of a new role: The face, or actually fingers, of the Cheetos brand in Canada.
In a continuation of its efforts to make its distinctive brand asset “cheetle”—the gummy residue that sticks to your fingers when consuming the snack food—part of the Canadian vernacular, Cheetos announced this week that it is sponsoring Liu’s fingertips.
Developed by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners—which has a longstanding relationship with the Cheetos brand (including work such as this and this)—with Rethink for PR, the new “Sponsortips” campaign is being led by a 30-second TV spot featuring Liu talking with his agent about becoming “the face of Cheetos,” only to learn that the contract is highly restrictive to preserve his fingers.
That means no more handshakes, handstands, or thumb wars. “And don’t even think about knitting,” says his agent. The spot concludes with Liu awkwardly attempting to sign the contract without using his fingers.
A second spot takes place on a commercial set, where Liu is being introduced as the brand’s new celebrity endorser. However, the director keeps telling him to step slightly to the right, allowing the focus to be on his fingers and the bag of Cheetos he’s holding. “I was told I was going to be the face of Cheetos,” says a slightly nonplussed Liu.
The video spots are being supported by social media, ads in Hello! Canada magazine, and billboards running in English, French, and Mandarin. There’s also a dedicated website at CheetosSponsortips.ca.
“Our fans know that Cheetle dust on your fingers is an unmistakable—and delicious—part of the Cheetos experience,” said Jess Spaulding, CMO of Cheetos parent PepsiCo Canada. “We’re so excited to celebrate what our true fans love so much—Cheetle—with homegrown Canadian superstar Simu Liu.”
The new Liu campaign follows previous efforts by Cheetos to make “cheetle” a thing, most notably last year’s erection of a cheetle-covered hand statue in the Alberta hamlet of Cheadle, which was followed by a bucking Cheetos bull at this year’s Calgary Stampede. The brand also introduced a Super Bowl hack that enables people to open their phone when their fingers are covered in cheetle.
Recruiting Liu in a marketing role, however, seems to mark a significant step change in Cheetos’ awareness efforts. It is not only Cheetos Canada’s first-ever celebrity endorsement, but Liu’s status as a fast-rising Hollywood star is guaranteed to attract consumer attention.
Not surprisingly, his growing star status has also made Liu something of a marketers’ darling, appearing in recent campaigns for McDonald’s, Google’s Pixel brand, and Destination Toronto, as well as becoming a global ambassador for the luxury outerwear brand Nobis.