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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.
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?
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