Claiming the Christmas period with Sinterklaas

By using the 6th of December as’s official switch day from Sinterklaas into Christmas, became the brand with the strongest mental link to the holiday period.

Challenge is a brand that is, from its heritage, strongly linked to Sinterklaas. The ambition for the 2021 Christmas campaign was to also establish a similar mental link to Christmas, to ultimately become the leading retailer during the whole holiday period.

The goal was to be in the top three brands that are associated with Christmas. A hefty challenge. In 2020 the list was dominated by strong ‘Christmas brands’ Albert Heijn (16%), Coca-Cola (15%) and Jumbo (7%), with closing the ranks with the 9th position (2%).

The December holidays are a hectic period. For our audience, but also in the media landscape. Big brands (like Albert Heijn, Jumbo Plus, Lidl, Aldi, along with Amazon’s increasing presence) are heavily competing for the attention of the audience, trying to win the battle of mental availability with grand storytelling and big media budgets.

So when it comes to breaking through the clutter, has to be smart about it, because it can’t compete with the budgets of the biggest food-retailers.
So what do we have, what our Christmas competitors lack? And how can we put that to good use? Those were the questions we asked ourselves, when we set out to create 2021’s campaign.

Idea can see in their shopping data that people can’t wait for Christmas to begin. Already in October and November people start prepping decorations and gifts. But we also know there’s an unwritten rule in the Netherlands that you have to wait with all the Christmas fun until Sinterklaas has officially left the country. On the 6th of December.

Instead of seeing Sinterklaas’ presence until the 6th as a barrier, we saw the insight as an opportunity for our campaign and used it to our advantage. The 6th of December became the official switch day. The day many have been waiting for. Sinterklaas out, Christmas in. Dag Sinterklaasje, Hello Christmas!

Our Sinterklaas also became our Christmas property. A property already linked to, that weaved the two holiday periods into one seamless storyline.


We claimed the moment of saying goodbye to Sinterklaas as a new cultural phenomenon, the kick-off for celebrating Christmas in all its glory. We sent off our own Sinterklaas in the Christmas film. The first time Sinterklaas actually starred in a Christmas campaign.

The TVC has all the iconic Sinterklaas ingredients: his steamboat, the song ‘Bye Sinterklaas’ (Dag Sinterklaasje) and of course Mr. Holiness himself. This magical setting transitions into people getting excited for Christmas. After Sinterklaas has only just left the harbour and is barely out of sight, our bespoke ‘Hello Christmas song’ starts, giving the commercial an instant Christmas feel.’s tongue-in-cheek humour really shines when Sinterklaas comes back to look for his lost scepter, enters the Christmas scene and is awkwardly convinced to put on Santa’s Christmas hat. 

The same construct is used in radio and online, where we make the transition from Sinterklaas to Christmas both in audio and visually.


The goal was to strengthen the mental link between Christmas and, and be in the top three brands associated with Christmas. The results didn’t disappoint.

In 2020 was closing the ranks on the 9th spot with 2%. After the campaign in 2021 dominated the list with 12%, leaving the strong Christmas brands Albert Heijn (10%), Coca-Cola (10%) and Jumbo (5%) behind (Memo2, campaign tracker). What makes it even more of an achievement is the fact that the two supermarkets had an average of x1.5 more GRPs, compared to 

Our remarkable film had everything to do with breaking through the clutter, it scored 64% on spontaneous brand linkage, 41% above the Memo2 benchmark.  

Claiming the holiday period with one guy. Gotta love Sinterklaas!


This approach worked its magic because of three reasons:

Ownable and recognisable  

The 5th of December is ‘pakjesavond’ and the last day of’s Sinterklaas campaign. The next day we say goodbye to the same Sinterklaas and kick-off the Christmas campaign. This approach made all communications unmistakably 

Smart timing in the media landscape  

In the 2nd week of December (6-12 Dec) the media landscape is not as cluttered as it will be in the week leading up to Christmas. An opportunity for to grab the #1 share of voice position and build recognition for the campaign, before the big media budgets of our Christmas competitors (Albert Heijn, Jumbo) kick in.

Humour in a sea of tearjerkers is a down-to-earth brand that likes to make a joke or two. But Christmas is all about big emotions. We decided to stay true to our brand with a lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek.


Strategy director NL

Dennis Hamakers

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