Last fall, an ESPN magazine profile of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes revealed something shocking: Mahomes puts ketchup on everything. The habit went ludicrously far, to the point that Mahomes admitted to slapping ketchup between two slices of plain bread and eating that as often as two or three times a week. As he got older, Mahomes grew embarrassed to ask for ketchup, even though he wanted it; at steakhouses, his mother, Randi, would order it instead and slip it to him on the sly.
“I had gotten to a point where I’d ask for ketchup and the chef would come out to me because they thought that I thought something was wrong with their steak,” says Mahomes, calling in from the Chiefs’ training facility in Kansas City, Missouri. “And I was like, man, I just like ketchup.”
This information immediately went viral. An athlete from an older generation might have instantly gone into damage control mode, posing with famous chefs in steakhouse kitchens, flaunting unadorned prime cuts. But having grown up in an era where social media is every millennial’s second language, Patrick did something awesome: He leaned into it. Ketchup brands went nuts for it.
Heinz promised Mahomes a lifetime supply of ketchup if he passed for 57 touchdowns, which, in hindsight, was a lofty ask for a pro athlete who had been bombarded with free ketchup from the moment his affinity for ketchup went viral. (The record for touchdowns in a season is 55. If Mahomes had passed for 57, free ketchup would be the least of his concerns.)
Eventually, Hunt’s called—they had to have Mahomes as their spokesperson. Dan Skinner, the communications manager for Conagra Brands (which own Hunts), flew to Kansas City to woo Mahomes. Shortly thereafter, the biggest endorsement deal in the history of ketchup was struck.
ONE37pm talked to Mahomes about the deal, social media, the important distinctions between barbecue sauce, ketchup and other condiments, and his role in the development of Hunt’s new all-natural Best Ever ketchup formula.