There’s a new Colonel Sanders at KFC – again.
The fried-chicken chain has hired actor and comedian Rob Riggle to portray its founder, Colonel Sanders, in a series of ads tied to the kickoff of the NFL football season.
The new ads show the Colonel founding a new professional football team called the Kentucky Buckets – “the first professional football team fueled by fried chicken.” The commercials will begin airing on Thursday, after going live on KFC’s YouTube channel on Wednesday night.
The ads highlight KFC’s $20 Fill Up, including the new Extra Crispy Tenders Fill Up meal, which includes 12 extra cripsy tenders, a large cole slaw, four biscuits, and two large mashed potatoes with gravy.
Riggle, who is best known for acting as a correspondent on the Daily Show and a cast member on Saturday Night Live, follows in the footsteps of a number of other comedians tapped to play the Colonel since Darrell Hammond brought the founder back from the dead in May 2015. Norm Macdonald, Jim Gaffigan, and most recently, George Hamilton have all appeared as Colonel Sanders in KFC advertising over the last year.
Riggle’s version of the Colonel is intended to sell the chicken chain to football fans – a hugely profitable market.
This NFL season, advertisers are paying record figures to show ads during football games, reports Sports Business Daily. Fox is reportedly charging roughly $700,000 for 30-second spots during games with 4:25 p.m. kickoffs.
“So far the response has been about 80% positive, 20% hate it,” Greg Creed, the CEO of KFC’s parent company, Yum Brands, said at aconferencea few weeks after the commercial ran. “And I am actually quite happy that 20% hate it, because now they at least have an opinion.”
The controversial move has paid off for the chain. In July, Yum Brands announced that KFC had reported its eighth consecutive quarter of same-store sales growth, after a period of slumping sales.
CMO Kevin Hochman thinks the turnaround is due in part to the renewed role of the Colonel.
“We have to have a point of view,” Hochmantold Business Insider in May.“We’ve been playing it safe for so many years – some people will like it, some people won’t like it, but at the end of the day if we’re growing our business and we get more people into our brand, it’s worth it.”
Now, the use of Riggle serves as a tongue-in-cheek response to some of the Colonel’s biggest critics.
“Rob Riggle was the obvious choice for those on the internet calling for us to use the real Kentucky Colonel in our ads,” Hochman said in a statement on Wednesday. “He was born in Louisville, Kentucky and served our country as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marines. It doesn’t get any more real than that.”