KFC is doubling down on Colonel Sanders, for the first time casting a black man to play the chicken chain’s founder.
Comedian David Alan Grier announced on Twitter that he has been cast as the first African-American Colonel Sanders, following in the footsteps of previous colonels Norm MacDonald and Darrell Hammond.
On Super Bowl Sunday, the chicken chain released a commercial bidding goodbye to MacDonald and introducing comedian Jim Gaffigan as the new Colonel. KFC has not yet publicly confirmed Grier’s appointment, and did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
Colonel Sanders has been featured front and center in KFC’s recent marketing efforts. The chain reintroduced the Colonel to marketing last May, played by Darrell Hammond. Norm MacDonald took over the role in August.
In the last year, both men’s versions have appeared in TV commercials and on social media. The company is even remodeling restaurants to put Colonel Sanders at the forefront.
According to the company, the rebirth of the Colonel is working.
“If you looked at social media over Halloween, there were zillions of Colonel Sanders costumes — not just kids, but adults,” Kevin Hochman, KFC’s chief marketing officer, said at an event debuting Nashville Hot Chicken in New York City in January.
The company has previously said that it doesn’t mind if some customers — an estimated 20% — hate the new Colonel Sanders ads.
“They’re actually talking about KFC, and you can market to love and hate — you cannot market to indifference,” Yum! Brands CEO Greg Creed said in May.
Casting a black comedian as a fast-food icon who has been dogged by (unproven) rumours that he was a racist for years is a bold choice for the chicken chain. However, it sticks to KFC’s recent dedication to marketing decisions that may polarize customers. At KFC, it may be more important that people are talking about Colonel Sanders than what exactly they are saying.
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