Mike Florence, Head of Planning at the retailer's media agency PHD, told Warc how the intention with the 2016 offering, The Greatest Gift, had been to move beyond relevance to surprise.
"If you're relevant, you might turn a head, but only for a moment. If you're surprising on top you get a deep connection," he said. (For more details, read Warc's exclusive report: How Sainsbury's evolved 'Christmas is for Sharing'.)
"In terms of innovation in the media space, we won it," he added. "Sainsbury's took the biggest risk and got the biggest reward."
This year's Christmas campaign included a partnership with Gogglebox, a popular reality TV programme that shows people's reactions to TV programmes and ads.
Their reactions to The Greatest Gift stop-motion animation ad were included in a custom-made ad that ran in a Gogglebox commercial break. In this ad, the Gogglebox stars morphed into animated characters resembling those in The Greatest Gift, providing a segue into a second Sainsbury's ad where the focus was on Christmas food.
Florence reported that the collaboration generated 3.2m views on Facebook alone and the sentiment was 100% positive. He added that it avoided the more typical way that supermarkets promote their Christmas food and helped the retailer differentiate. "Sainsbury's loved it because it cracked food." he said.
Other innovative aspects of the campaign included a witty soundtrack written by Flight of the Conchords star Bret McKenzie and sung by British comedian James Corden (proceeds from the sale of the track are being donated to Great Ormond Street Hospital). What's more, a karaoke Snapchat lens invited people to sing along with the best versions being shared, with a singalong scheduled to be broadcast on TV on Christmas Eve.
Depending on source and research methodology, winners in the UK's Christmas ad wars have included discounter Lidl (scored top in 'persuasion' by Kantar Millward Brown), department store John Lewis (rated most 'engaging' by Realeyes) and Marks & Spencer ('most improved performance' according to Kantar TNS).
Data sourced from Warc, Kantar Millward Brown, Kantar TNS, Realeyes