The five-week campaign, due to start on Monday, shows what the manufacturer calls "ordinary people" – including builders, campers and pantomime performers – eating Spam in various types of dishes. It hopes to boost the existing £13.3 million UK market for the product. But many believe that the brand name's association with junk e-mail has damaged sales.
Hormel, based in Austin, Minnesota, has been selling its canned meat since 1937 and ever since spam became synonymous with unsolicited commercial e-mail messages it has struggled to protect its rights in the brand.
Hormel acknowledges that junk e-mail became known as spam after the infamous 1970 Monty Python sketch involving a restaurant that sold spam with everything.
Waitress Terry Jones, in answer to customer Eric Idle's question of what's available, replies, "Well, there's egg and bacon; egg, sausage and bacon; egg and spam; egg bacon and spam; egg, bacon, sausage and spam; spam, bacon, sausage and spam; spam, egg, spam, spam, bacon and spam; spam, sausage, spam, spam, bacon, spam, tomato and spam."
A group of Vikings, seated at another table, begin to chant, "spam, spam, spam, spam...." Before bursting into song: "Spam, spam, spam, spam. Lovely spam! Wonderful spaaam! Lovely spam! Wonderful spam..."
It wasn't until 1994 that the term "spam" was coined for junk e-mail. In that year, two lawyers in Phoenix, Arizona, flooded newsgroups with an e-mail promoting their services. Someone (nobody seems to know who) compared it to the classic sketch in which spam was unavoidable.
Since then Hormel has tolerated the use of the term for junk e-mail, despite holding registered trade marks for SPAM in more than 100 countries.
But the company, in so far as it can, has fought to protect its brand, most recently objecting to a "Spam King" clothing line created by self-professed "Spam King" Scott Richter, of bulk e-mail company OptInRealBig, while last year it took action against SpamArrest LLC, a spam filtering company based in Seattle which, in Hormel's opinion, was damaging its goodwill and reputation. In response SpamArrest told Hormel that it was "acting like a corporate crybaby and ought to can it."