Why Masterchef Australia is ‘Back to Win’ in 2020

Masterchef Australia returns in 2020 for its 12th season with a returning cast of contestants and sponsors, but completely new judges. Mumbrella’s Hannah Blackiston speaks with Rick Maier, Masterchef executive producer and Mark Herring, Bulla Dairy Foods chilled marketing manager to find out why audiences, and brands, return to the reality show.

With 11 seasons of contestants to pick from it wasn’t hard for Masterchef Australia to select a team of 24 all-stars to come ‘Back to Win’ for the 2020 season. Fan favourites Hayden Quinn and Khanh Ong join those who have had wide-ranging success outside the show including Poh Ling Yeow and Reynold Poernomo.

“Masterchef Australia 2020 is a chance for all Masterchef viewers – past and present – to find a genuine connection with contestants they will know,” says executive producer Rick Maier.

The Masterchef Australia contestants who are returning for 2020

“The ‘Back to Win’ contestants were chosen by Marty Benson and his casting team at ESA [Endemol Shine Australia] very deliberately to canvas cuisine, demography, state etc. It is without a doubt the most diverse cast we have had, and every single one is a potential winner.

“Whether you remember Poh from season one or the contestants from last year, there will be someone you already have familiarity with, and want to cheer on.”

It isn’t just the contestants returning in 2020. A number of sponsors have come back for the 12th season, including Bulla. This will be the third season the brand has been involved with Masterchef Australia, with Mark Herring, Bulla Dairy Foods marketing manager for its chilled products saying the partnership is a natural one, brought about by shared values.

“Bulla is proud to continue its involvement with Masterchef Australia, given the show is all about the food first and foremost,” says Herring.

“With over 100 years of dairy expertise behind us, we know that cream can truly help bring a dish to life, bringing together flavours and boosting the everyday dish to the next level. This is why we continue to choose to partner with Masterchef Australia, a show that inspires creativity in the home kitchen and talks to the importance of beautiful fresh Australian produce.”

Bulla returns after last season when Ten and the brand partnered on an integrated campaign, focused on Bulla as the show’s cream of choice. The brief was to raise brand awareness and demonstrate the versatility of the product. The campaign consisted of in-show integration, broadcast and digital sponsorship, as well as off-screen activations.

Ten delivered on the integration, and versatility, and added integrated billboards and TV commercials reinforced the association and a 10 Play sponsorship for viewers online. This was followed up in-store with the ‘MasterChef Seal of Approval’ tagline.

Product integration is integral to the Masterchef brand partnerships

“In any partnership, Bulla looks for partners who align to the same brand values. The success of Bulla’s involvement with the show over the past three years has been very rewarding. Not only has this been critical to help our own brand success but also we hope our involvement has been a great support to the show,” says Herring.

“A mutually supportive partnership is very important to us. Like Masterchef, Bulla takes pride in how we make our products and the quality of ingredients that go into them. We are not just a company but a community and everyone involved with Bulla is considered part of the family.”

The partnership in 2019 delivered a 63% integration recall among Masterchef viewers with 29% choosing to use the product compared to 8% of non-viewers. Bulla reports unit sales increased 23% after the sponsorship.

Bulla and Masterchef will be inviting three new members to the family in 2020. Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen have joined as judges, following last year’s departure of Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris. Herring says Bulla isn’t concerned by the new faces, because the focus is the food. Maier says the diversity the trio bring to the show is what will make audiences love them.

“They’re brilliant. They have an ease of working together and a short-hand that belies the short time they’ve had together. Their backgrounds are different, their food knowledge is diverse, and they don’t always agree. It makes for some very interesting analysis of the dishes presented,” says Maier.

The 2020 Masterchef judges

The combination of the new judges and the returning players will provide a new perspective on the 12th season, says Maier, and Ten is confident audiences will respond well to the switchup.

“It comes down to intent. Amateur cooks want to come on the show to learn from the very best. There is always exponential growth and the improvement in the contestants in a few short months is amazing. This year, these contestants are certainly not amateurs. They’ve had experience in the Masterchef kitchen and they’ve taken that experience into the outside world,” says Maier.

“They’ve opened restaurants, hosted cooking programs, written cookbooks, launched food lines. They have returned for unfinished business, and to relive some of the magic. It is the happiest, most focused set you could walk onto. There’s definitely a camaraderie, but they all want to win.”

Ten isn’t worried about the stress of launching during what has been described by many as an unprecedented environment for content. Media companies have struggled with a downturn in ad revenue and while news and current affairs programming has seen the highest ratings in five years, reality show programming doesn’t seem to have felt the same boost.

Masterchef, however, as Ten points out, first launched around the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), the team is used to tough environments and is confident new judges, returning contestants and the usual uplifting and positive nature of Masterchef can help the show deliver a good result.

Maier insists the judges won’t be trying to fit existing stereotypes. Nobody is going to be the mean judge. Nobody will walk in with a Matt Preston-style cravat. The trio have found their new niche, he says.

“Melissa, Andy and Jock are very much their own people, and respectful of the legacy left by Gary, George and Matt. This is a new Masterchef, but the heart and soul remain. The food we have seen, the level of camaraderie, and the passion to succeed are all the ingredients you could wish for. It should be a cracking season.”


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