Jamie Oliver has worked well for Sainsbury’s over an 11 year period, but the time is right for a change

The news that Jamie Oliver’s time as the face of Sainsbury’s is going to come to an end at Christmas came out of the blue yesterday, but on reflection isn’t entirely surprising. 11 years is a long time for any one individual to be the face of a brand, and the Oliver ads have been feeling a little tired for a while.

It’s such a long time ago now that it’s hard to remember just what a radical force for change was when Oliver came onto the scene as The Naked Chef. Sainsbury’s was reeling from having lost first place in the UK grocery rankings, and his arrival came on the back of the disastrous Value to Shout About campaign fronted by John Cleese.

Oliver’s input was a key part in Justin King’s campaign to Make Sainsbury’s Great Again. His evident passion for food, his energy and his down to earth persona helped Sainsbury’s redefine itself as somewhere passionate about what it sold and what it did, but which didn’t take itself too seriously.

The relationship wasn’t without its problems - particularly when Oliver hit out at Sainsbury’s over battery chickens - but Oliver symbolised the new vitality which stuffy old Sainsbury’s had found under King. He helped it find it’s new point of difference.

But the relationship has now run its course. Oliver is so ubiquitous now that he has become part of the establishment he once railed against so strongly. And with his face being everywhere - including other retailers’ shelves - the aura which Sainsbury’s once got from working with him is no longer there.

Still, 11 years is a good innings and Sainsbury’s has benefitted. The interesting question is what direction the retailer will take with its advertising from the new year.