Billy Ray Cyrus Spreads the Word in Hellmann’s Sandwich Swap ‘n’ Share Campaign

By Bob Doerschuk

What could be more evocative of growing up in America than memories of trading homemade sandwiches with friends at school? And what format celebrates American ideals more than Country Music?

These rhetorical queries actually answer a larger question pondered early in 2009 at Unilever — namely, how can they best represent their upcoming campaign to raise money for Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity?

Their Hellmann’s brand of mayonnaise — known as Best Foods west of the Rocky Mountains — would be the vehicle for this effort, which would combine the nostalgia of sandwich swaps with the technology of our era. The Sandwich Swap ‘n’ Share program launched just before the school year, exclusively on Facebook. Visitors to Hellmann’s page on Facebook were invited to build a virtual sandwich and share it with a friend on Facebook. For every sandwich created and shared, Hellmann’s donated seven lunches to Feeding America which provides food to more than 25 million low-income people throughout the United States.

As with all such initiatives, a celebrity spokesperson would have to be recruited — someone whose image was consistent with traditional values yet who also had a sense of humor and, if possible, might be known widely as the kind of dad who would happily pack his kids’ lunchboxes with sandwiches to carry off to school.

That road led directly to Billy Ray Cyrus, whose album Back to Tennessee was released in April 2009 on Walt Disney Records/Lyric Street Records.

“Billy Ray fit perfectly with our Real Food message,” explained Jamey Fish, Senior Brand Manager, Hellmann’s. “He’s a very real guy, very down-to-earth, great personality, very friendly — and he’s also a dad. Plus, he loves sandwiches! The man loves sandwiches, as does most of America.”

Cyrus spread the word via Twitter. “In fact,” Fish recalled, “during the press event in New York where we announced the program, we had computer stations set up where you could log onto Facebook and try it out, and I watched Billy Ray doing that himself.”

“This program ties together one of my favorite foods with a creative virtual application that will hopefully inspire folks to join the effort to end hunger by supporting Feeding America,” Cyrus confirmed.

The Sandwich Swap ‘n’ Share program reached its goal of donating 700,000 lunches very quickly. Bids were also placed via an eBay charity auction, with the highest bidder winning an opportunity to swap actual sandwiches with Cyrus backstage at his concert in Niceville, Fla. The winner, Carolyn McKelvy, accompanied by her son Zachary Plastina, 8, ended up trading their turkey and cheese with a nearly identical concoction created by Cyrus. The cheeses differed — but both sandwiches definitely included Hellmann’s mayonnaise.

© 2010 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

About The Photo: Billy Ray Cyrus shares sandwiches with Sandwich Swap ‘n’ Share eBay charity auction winner Carolyn McKelvy and her son Zachary Plastina.

photo: courtesy of Hellmann’s

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