The Taste of the NFL, a pre-Super Bowl event designed to raise awareness of hunger in America, as well as to raise funds to fight hunger, began in 1992.Over the years, the event, which brings in chefs from each of the 32 cities that has an NFL football team, has raised more than $5.1 million.
Landau Public Relations began working on the event in 1999 after doing pro-bono work for another NFL-related activity, the Cleveland Browns' celebrity dinner.
The task for Landau was to generate renewed media excitement about Taste and to use that new excitement to garner more donations. "That's our challenge with an account like this: It's called 'what have you done for me lately?'" says Howard Landau, president of the firm.
The fact that the event is held in a different city every year - whichever city is hosting the Super Bowl - also complicates getting media coverage. "This is a true moving target," says Wayne Kostroski, founder and executive director of Taste.
Taste includes a chef and a retired NFL player from every NFL city hosting a table at the event. The chefs prepare dishes for Taste attendees with their recipes, which are also used in a Taste cookbook. The event is held just before the Super Bowl in the game's host city, which this year was Houston.
Landau decided to localize the event by focusing on stars and chefs with local media in their home cities. At the same time, it sought to target national media and the food-trade press with the broader story about the event itself.
Landau's four-person account team pitched the Taste event to sports, charity, and food writers. It sent roughly 100 press kits, which included press releases, chef lists, and cookbooks created from the previous year's event, to long-lead publications. Next, it pitched via e-mail to 1,000 more outlets, including a link to a press site created for the event, along with the materials sent to the long-lead media.
Pitching to local newspapers, radio, and television outlets began in earnest in mid-December as attention began to focus on the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl.
"The whole Taste message is raising awareness and raising dollars," says Jennifer Walker, the Landau SAE who oversaw the effort. "We're looking at anyone who will help in spreading the word."
Landau's media site proved to be a popular tool for reporters to grab photos of dishes made at Taste events.
In addition to pitching, Landau was also responsible for registering media to cover Taste. Tickets to the event sell for $400 and $600, and free spaces are limited to 197 journalists.
The Houston Taste event raised $820,000, and the crowd of 3,500 people was the largest to date, says Walker.
Taste of the NFL 2004 received 375 media placements, reaching almost 40 million people, nearly double the results of the previous year's event in San Diego. TV coverage included 83 segments, including live coverage in Houston and 18 NFL markets. Two chefs were featured on CBS' The Early Show. Print coverage included 203 articles in 116 cities. National print coverage included Bon Appetit.
Trade coverage included Chef magazine, Restaurant Hospitality, Restaurant News, and Nation's Restaurant News.
Radio coverage included ESPN's Mike & Mike in the Morning show, as well as coverage on Fox Sports Radio and Sporting News Radio.
Landau has already begun work on Taste of the NFL 2005, which will take place in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. It also continues to donate its time to the annual Cleveland Browns celebrity dinner, which benefits the Cleveland Foodbank.
PR team: Landau Public Relations (Cleveland) and Taste of the NFL (Minneapolis)
Campaign: Taste of the NFL 2004
Time frame: October 2003 to February 2004