KFC’s Marion Island ‘escape’ messages trigger R50,000 donation to sea rescue heroes

Radio listeners alert NSRI to Atlantic emergency after hearing unbranded teasers for ‘Beyond the Sea’ campaign 

KFC’s Marion Island ‘escape’ messages trigger R50,000 donation to sea rescue heroes
Mission accomplished: KFC Senior Marketing Manager Mukundi Munzhelele hands a cheque for R50,000 to National Sea Rescue Institute CEO Dr Cleeve Robertson at the V&A Waterfront Sea Rescue station in Cape Town on 25 May 2024. The donation followed a false alarm about a mid-Atlantic emergency, sparked by radio teasers for KFC’s “Beyond the Sea” campaign.

A media campaign about the lengths to which people will go for KFC unexpectedly sparked calls to the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) – and a R50,000 boost for the organisation’s funds.

The campaign by Ogilvy South Africa was inspired by the South Africans who spend more than a year on remote Marion Island, one of South Africa’s farthest-flung territories, in service of science. It featured a 2,209 km rubber-duck voyage by two of them who were determined to satisfy their yearning for KFC.

In the initial unbranded stage of the campaign, radio shows across the country were interrupted by ham radio messages from one of the scientists crossing the Atlantic Ocean, creating nationwide intrigue and prompting the NSRI intervention.

The sea rescue charity tweeted: “Hey @KFCSA, some of our concerned supporters called our Emergency Operations Centre about your trip from Marion Island to SA. That resulted in an investigation with the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre.”

When the truth came to light, the NSRI added: “We now know it’s just an ad, but if you ever really need us, just know that our volunteer rescue crew are on stand-by 24/7. Wherever you are – we are.”

KFC Africa Chief Marketing Officer Grant Macpherson says the calls to the NSRI came as a surprise. “When we conceptualise large-scale integrated campaigns like this, we try to anticipate and mitigate any unintended consequences,” he says.

“With our ‘Beyond the Sea’ campaign, we didn’t imagine listeners reporting a maritime emergency, but their concern and the response by the heroes at the NSRI reminded us of the work done by this amazing organisation.”

Replying to the NSRI, KFC tweeted: “We appreciate your lookout for our chicken voyage! Rest assured, our #MarionIsland journey was just a TASTE expedition. Watch out for a Bucket-load of thanks coming your way.”

The tweet included a message in Morse code, a 180-year-old method of sending messages using short and long sounds or flashes of light which are written as dots and dashes, announcing a R50,000 donation to the NSRI. The money was handed over on Saturday 25 May at the V&A Waterfront sea rescue station in Cape Town.

After accepting the cheque from KFC Senior Marketing Manager Mukundi Munzhelele, NSRI CEO Dr Cleeve Robertson said: “Last year alone, our volunteers rescued more than 1,800 people, and every year our staff work hard on teaching water safety and survival swimming campaigns. All this is expensive, so we’re deeply grateful for KFC’s contribution.”

The handover took place a week after the SA Agulhas II, South Africa’s polar supply and research ship, returned to its mooring near the V&A Sea Rescue station from its annual Marion Island resupply voyage. After dropping off a new team, the vessel returned with scientists who had spent a year on the island studying seabirds, seals, meteorology and space.

Life on the island is depicted in a cinematic masterpiece created for the campaign, which also features video calls with friends enjoying KFC in South Africa and the moment two scientists “escape” clutching a KFC shopping list from their fellow islanders.

Macpherson says most South Africans pining for KFC are unlikely to experience the same difficulties as the fictional Marion Island researchers.

“With 1,098 restaurants across the country, the irresistible taste of KFC is never far away,” he says. “But we know that our customers will go to great lengths for our finger-lickin’ good food and we wanted to honour that devotion in a great story.”

In the gaming phase of the campaign over the next two months, every KFC lover will be able to get involved by playing the KFC Taste Scrollable mobile game. To get a sense of just how far the Marion Island scientists were prepared to go for the taste of KFC, consumers will be able to scroll the equivalent of 2,000km. There are delicious prizes at key moments along the way and a grand prize of over 2,000 pieces of chicken.

Play the KFC Taste Scroll game: www.kfctastescroll.co.za.


Watch the Beyond the Sea film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67D3tZhyLo8


Read the NSRI’s latest annual report: https://www.nsri.org.za/assets/downloads/JOB026579_NSRI_IAR_2022_V6c_PP_Interactive_Spreads_s-FINAL-13-July-2023.pdf


About KFC Africa

KFC has been in South Africa for over 53 years and has more than 1,300 stores across the continent.

The first KFC restaurant in South Africa opened in 1971 in Orange Grove, Johannesburg. KFC is the

leading quick-service restaurant brand in South Africa with just under a third of market share,

according to Brand Image Tracker. KFC serves more than 20 million customers a month and we work

hard to ensure that no matter which of our restaurants they walk into, they will get that distinctive

KFC flavour and have a great experience. KFC’s Original Recipe® Chicken was first made by Colonel

Harland Sanders in 1940 when he perfected his secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices at his restaurant

in Kentucky. Today, KFC is the world’s most popular chicken restaurant, still preparing our chicken

with the Colonel’s secret recipe to his exact standards. Every KFC restaurant follows the same global

processes and procedures to ensure that our customers get great-tasting food, every time.


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