What the Astros Do When You're Not Looking: Those Wacky H-E-B Grocery Store Ads/Videos
Marketing strategy meets local heroes, raising the question, "Should over-acting come with a sell-by date?" Answer: It's either this, or new Ad-Stros unis emblem-festooned like NASCAR participants.
To the victor, the spoils may indeed go, but these started well over a year before the Houston Astros paraded through the streets of downtown, three weeks before Thanksgiving 2017.
TV appearances of every stripe come your way if you’re a World Champion in any sport. Guest spots on talk shows, skits on SNL, and even local PSAs and commercials (not to mention photoshoots for boxes of cereal and video games) clutter the calendars of many champs.
That brings us to several Astros and their now-long-term marriage with popular San Antonio-based H-E-B grocery stores.
H-E-B, founded in 1905, boasts over 350 stores in Texas and northeast Mexico.
Killer B In Aisle 3
It all started in the summer of 2016, after the Astros posted a second-place finish in the AL West, 10 games above .500 in 2015, the first season Houston showed an unexpected early spark of magic. That was the season Dallas Keuchel handcuffed the New York Yankees, 3-0, in the Wild Card Game, before giving the eventual World Series winners Kansas City Royals a real run for their figurative money in the ALDS.
The 2016 Astros lost two more games than the year before, but H-E-B saw spokesperson gold in one Astro, a former Astro, and eventually, three.
July 2016 saw the filming and airing of the first H-E-B spot, “Signals,” starring newly-minted 2015 AL Rookie of the Year (and newly-signed 2022 Minnesota Twin) Carlos Correa, and arguably the most popular Astro ever, Craig Biggio. Bidge was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame exactly a year earlier.
In “Signals” (no longer available on video), Correa was seen grilling away on his patio while Biggio, some 15 feet away, relayed signals to him about what Scott McLelland (former H-E-B president for over 30 years, now part-time with the company, and due to retire at year’s end), wants cooked up. After several signal changes, Scott starts signaling incoherently, which causes an uncharacteristic spatula spike by Correa.
In this video (click on this blue-linked sentence to view), titled “Trivia,” Scott sits down to dinner with Carlos and Craig, and sends Astros trivia questions around the table. Acting careers may not be born with these things, but baseball careers aren’t often harpooned, either….yet.
In another long-lost Craig and Carlos ad, the ‘Stros Bros double-play combo separated by a generation, followed “Trivia” up with “Teaching Moments,” as viewers learned that Biggio’s kitchen foibles only began with not knowing the difference between bacon and bakin’! I suspect Patty has since informed him, however subtly!
Many of the early, classic H-E-B Astro-centric ads are lost to the cobwebs of time and, let’s face it, player movement. In the middle of summer 2017, George Springer was brought in to star with Correa in more of what were becoming popular ads.
“We’re thrilled to add George to the H-E-B team,” McClelland told the Houston Chronicle at the time. “We know he will bring his impressive fielding to our partnership.”
In January 2021, Springer signed a six-year free-agent deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. Little-known is his recent foray into motion pictures. He, with comic actor, Paul Rudd, ponied up the dough for a film doc during his time with the ‘Stros. Read about it here:
The Man Behind the Produce and Perishables
“It really wasn't much of a comedic stretch for me to play the dumb guy,” McClelland joked to Houston’s ABC-TV affiliate recently, hinting at his apparent involvement in the writing of the half-minute skits. “I would put myself in situations where I would live next door to J.J. Watt or I would try to hang out with the different baseball players.”
The ads, of course, helped elevate the H-E-B brand to viewers, as executives of the grocery chain had intended. But, there was another result McLelland wasn’t expecting:
”As a result of those commercials, so many people in Houston think they know me,” he revealed. “So, wherever I am, they'll come up and start talking to me. I've met so many interesting people, shapes, sizes, colors, races, backgrounds; that really has probably been an even bigger payoff for me.”
Grab a Bag of H-E-B Popcorn (Aisle 6, With Nuts and Assorted Snacks) and Set a Spell!
In one of the oldest ads still drawing breath is this hilarious 2017 send-up of the cultured elite, with their ubiquitous coffee snobbery, starring Springer, Correa, and the perennially loveable pin-cushion in these ads, Jose Altuve, titled, “Cafe Ole”:
Speaking of Altuve, he shined almost cartoon-like in this endearing effort, dubbed “The World’s Shortest Cooking Show,” also with Springer and Correa. “It’s ready!”:
Here, welcoming baseball back from the throes of a global pandemic, Altuve tries his hand at the potters’ wheel:
Also from ‘21, here’s DJ-Breg doing his part to pump up the jams:
And, in probably his last while an Astro (before the Twins rescued him from a life of constructing squirrel feeders), Correa asking his long-time friend, Kevin, how he likes his umbrella:
And, leading the league in enjoying shooting these things, here’s Bregs, Correa, and Altuve, marveling at the third baseman’s new hobby: Building a stadium out of cold cuts and produce:
Orbit makes an appearance in this one from last season, which also stars our favorite infield trio, including one particular second baseman who expanded his repertoire in the offseason:
And, perfect for the opening of the 2022 season, H-E-B proclaims they’re SuperFans, too:
This 2019 “Funniest Moments” compilation includes a handful of H-E-B spots, plus the Geoff Blum/Tyler White/Jake Marisnick long-form Academy spot, and several on-field comedies of error:
And, before she and hubby packed off for snow-central, Carlos’s better-half, Daniella, played doc film-maker, in this enlightening behind-the scenes peek:
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