Amazing tale of survival at sea becomes a high-profile PR opportunity

By our News Team | 2023

Sailor who survived 24 days adrift on a meagre diet that included Heinz tomato sauce is to receive a new boat from the multinational brand.

In what may turn out to be one of the PR opportunities of the year, multinational food company Kraft Heinz is coming to the aid of a sailor who was lost at sea for 24 days and survived partly by eating a bottle of the company’s famous tomato sauce (ketchup).

Heinz – which is the company’s name as well as that of its famous tomato sauce – is giving 47-year-old Francois Elvis from Dominica, an island nation in the Caribbean, a spanking new boat to replace the old one that had to be abandoned at sea when he was rescued by the crew of a container ship.

Public Relations

Photo credit: Heinz via Instagram

Francois’s remarkable tale of survival – 24 days lost at sea with no communication and unable to steer his drifting boat – was all the more astonishing when he was taken to shore and doctors found him to be in good health. It turned out his diet comprised a bottle of Heinz tomato sauce, garlic powder and Maggi stock cubes, which he mixed with rainwater he collected on a cloth.

Sailor told his tale, then went home

Have told the tale of his ocean adventure to local authorities and media in Colombia, the country to which he was taken after his rescue, Francois lamented the loss of his boat and then returned home to Dominica.

Hearing of this, Heinz set out to find Francois via authorities in both countries, but with no success. Heinz then mounted an extensive social media campaign #FindtheKetchupBoatGuy, that quickly went viral. It reached nearly 5-million users and garnered more than 4,000 likes. 

Eventually the elusive sailor was found by a media outlet in Dominica and the subsequent interview alerted Heinz executives, who contacted Francois and have now made plans to get a new boat to him.

“We received thousands of likes, shares and messages of kindness in our search to find Elvis François,” a statement on Heinz’s Instagram page said. “It was an incredible group effort across six continents that led to the hundreds of articles and leads, and our eventual contact with Elvis.”

Could this become a future PR industry case study on how to spot an opportunity and seize the moment?


Dr Kin Kariisa

Group CEO - Next Media

Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

  • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
  • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
  • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
  • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.