Breaking Brand: Cinnabon Sees $1 Million in Media Value from ‘Better Call Saul’ Placement

Hal Conick
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways
Company: Cinnabon

Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia

Campaign timeline: During weeks of “Better Call Saul” season premiers, February 2015 and February 2016

Results: In excess of $1 million in media value, 35-times the usual number of impressions on social media week of series premier, 10-times the impression and engagement weeks of the season premiers.

April 18, 2016

AMC’s hit series “Better Call Saul” opened tight on the Cinnabon’s logo. Now, well into season two, the company is seeing huge dividends from its involvement with the “Breaking Bad” prequel.  ​


As AMC’s “Better Call Saul” opened for the first time, the camera panned in on Gene, a character played by Bob Odenkirk, whose nametag, apron and regalia indicate that he’s the manager of a Cinnabon. 

Set in black and white, the scene followed Gene as he makes the company’s famous cinnamon rolls step by step. For many, the scene was a peek into the new life of Saul Goodman, a beloved character from “Breaking Bad​” forced to change his identity. For Cinnabon, it was two minutes of un-interrupted TV time in front of millions, a boon for its marketing department.

A year and a half after “Breaking Bad” ended its white-hot five season run on AMC, the show’s anticipated prequel “Better Call Saul” aired for the first time. The show broke records, drawing in 6.9 million viewers, the most ever for a cable premier in history. It shattered the old record by 2.9 million people, according to Nielsen. 

Cinnabon’s brand name was the first thing the show’s 6.9 million viewers saw during the show’s series premier. How did the company get here? Quite organically, as Jill Thomas, vice president of marketing at Cinnabon, tells it.


Thomas, who has been with the company for approximately a year, says Cinnabon has been having its “moment of rediscovery,” thanks in no small part to pop culture. Aside from “Better Call Saul,” the company has recently been featured on ABC’s “The Muppets” and “Black-Ish,” as well as the recent Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg movie, “Daddy’s Home.”

“I just think it’s a quick read, I think that’s why a lot of writers write us in,” she says, adding that the minute you say Cinnabon, it’s as if people can already taste or smell it. “It’s Middle America, it’s very approachable and positive. There’s a very positive perception of a very loved brand.”

The relationship with “Better Call Saul” started when the show’s creators, Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan, wrote Cinnabon into the penultimate episode of “Breaking Bad.” Saul, played by Odenkirk, told lead character Walter White in the midst of his big change that, “If I’m lucky, in a month from now, best-case scenario, I’m managing a Cinnabon in Omaha.” 

At that point, the Cinnabon team tweeted at “Breaking Bad” with a job application to the company’s Omaha shop. Gould and Gilligan reached out to the company and told them about the idea for Cinnabon’s involvement in their new show.

​​“We totally embraced the idea and took it all the way,” she says. “For us, it was a really fun social idea. Just being there, always being in the moment.”

Cinnabon and the “Better Call Saul” team went all in on the relationship. Odenkirk was trained on how to make cinnamon rolls from start to finish, which he showcased in opening episodes of both seasons one and two. He also has told and retold the story many times, including on talk shows like “Conan” and “James Corden’s Late Late Show.”

Cinnabon created its own #SaulSelfie hashtag and had cardboard cutouts of Odenkirk in all of its stores as a way to get customers to take a picture of themselves with it and post it online for a chance to win a year’s supply of Cinnabon goodies.

“AMC has been a great partner in helping us develop ways to engage in ‘Better Call Saul’ in a more authentic way, both through social and bakery extension,” Thomas says. “These guys integrated us in. They welcomed us, they embraced us. They wanted it to be authentic.”


While it’s difficult to isolate the retail value Cinnabon received from the airing of the show, Thomas says there was an increase in traffic during the weeks “Better Call Saul” aired. However, social engagements have been through the roof for the company, something Thomas says she could easily quantify. 

The #SaulSelfie hashtag saw a 35-time increase in impressions the day the first show aired. The placement, which cost Cinnabon almost no money, was worth more than $1 million for the company in media value, Thomas says. For a company that doesn’t pay for placements and has a small marketing budget, the impact was huge. 

“The value of that … is just incredible,” Thomas says. “We could never place an ad on a cable show like that much less be integrated for two minutes. The numbers are pretty astounding. For us, it’s everything.”

In addition, Thomas says they have seen increases of thousands of people following their brand across all social platforms, mainly Twitter, the week of both season premiers. Impressions and engagement were up 10-times on the weeks where Cinnabon was on “Better Call Saul.” 

“When we do something like this, we see dramatic bumps,” she says. “I look at media and impressions on social on a weekly basis. It’s pretty evident, the amount of growth we see [from ‘Better Call Saul’].”

With the way television is consumed via binge watching on Netflix and other streaming services, Thomas says she’s hopeful there will be some residual value from the placement on “Better Call Saul”—not to mention all the storytelling Odenkirk is able to do on late night shows while the season is underway. 

Stacy Jones, CEO of Hollywood Branded, a Los Angeles-based entertainment marketing company, says these types of placements can make a huge difference at the cash register. Jones used to represent Cinnabon before it brought marketing efforts in house. Within one week of the brand being featured in a show (her example was CBS’ “King of Queens”), stores saw a spike in sales, she says.

It doesn’t matter if the show’s content may be dark or gritty, as is the case with “Better Call Saul,” Jones says. It only matters that consumers are engaged by the content and appreciate it. 

“More and more, there’s fluff content that’s on your earlier hours on TV networks and, quite frankly, they aren’t doing so well,” Jones says. “But [on cable], it’s a little bit grittier, a little bit edgier. There’s a little bit more adult content and higher viewership. Secondly, [this kind of content] offers more realism. It’s a natural, fun way for brands to get involved and be a little real. I don’t see starker, grittier shows as being a negative at all.”

As far as repeat viewing and replay value, Jones says she still sees the same old episodes of “King of Queens” that feature Cinnabon she saw 12 to 14 years ago. For a show such as “Better Call Saul,” with huge critical success and a cult-like following, the replay value could keep customers hungry for Cinnabon for years to come. 


Author Bio:
Hal Conick
Hal Conick is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @HalConick.
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