KFC Colonels Through the Years

After the passing of their founder, Colonel Sanders, KFC has used many famous spokespersons. Can anyone compare with the original Colonel?


Photo Courtesy of NRN.

In 2015, 35 years after the death of KFC founder Harland David Sanders, the company resurrected his Colonel Harland Sanders character in a series of online and television ads. In the years since, more than a dozen celebrities have taken on the role in marketing campaigns.


Let’s take a look back at the parade of familiar faces that have personified the iconic Colonel.


Harland David Sanders, who founded Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1930, and was the brand’s longtime spokesman, died on Dec. 16, 1980, in Louisville, Ky. He was 90 years old.


In May 2015, 35 years after the original founder’s death, KFC resurrected Colonel Harland Sanders with “Saturday Night Live” comedian Darrell Hammond in a series of online and television ads. The legendary founder also starred in a comic book.


Along with Darrell Hammond’s portrayal of Colonel Sanders, KFC brought the legend to life in an interactive website called “The Hall of Colonels,” which was touted as “the Internet encyclopedia about the man behind the bucket.” The effort was part of KFC’s revitalization strategy with the theme “Make the Colonel Proud.”


Comedian Norm Macdonald, a veteran of “Last Comic Standing” and “Saturday Night Live,” replaced Darrell Hammond as Colonel Sanders in August 2015 for the chain’s fall advertising with a video series called “Fryerside Chats.”


In time for the 2016 Super Bowl, KFC substituted Norm Macdonald with stand-up comedian Jim Gaffigan. A 30-second ad featured the “real” Colonel Sanders, portrayed by Gaffigan, waking from a nightmare in which Macdonald had stolen his identity.


Actor George Hamilton, known for his golden tan, was KFC’s first Colonel to focus on one product, the chain’s Extra Crispy Chicken. He became Colonel in August 2016.

Other famous Colonels include Rob Lowe, Ray Liotta, Reba McEntire, Jason Alexander, Vincent Kartheiser, and Billy Zane.


2019 NRN.

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