In April, the Ball Park brand decided it needed a game plan that would put it front and center during the summer."For the hot dog category, the late spring and summer months are crucial because that's barbecue season," says Joe Cohen, VP at MWW Group, which has worked with Sara Lee for the past year and a half.
"[Ball Park] wanted [to] keep the brand top of mind from May to August and surge activity around July, which is National Hot Dog Month," says Sara Matheu, director of media development and communications at Sara Lee Food & Beverage.
The PR team devised a contest for the country's best hot dog toppings. Dubbed The Great American Hot Dog Taste Challenge, it invited consumers in nine markets that Ball Park wanted to dominate - Baltimore, Philadelphia, Northeast Ohio, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Charleston and Raleigh, NC - to bring recipes that spoke to the traditions of their respective cities. "[We wanted] to create a warm, fun experience so that people left having a positive experience of the Ball Park brand," Cohen says. "It was very much an experiential marketing campaign."
The PR team pitched local media in advance of each city's event to generate attendance and participation. Chefs from Sara Lee appeared on local morning shows to demonstrate recipes from local winners and promote the contest. "Our goals were to bring in both print and broadcast exposure leading up to the event," Cohen says.
About 41,000 people attended the contest events across the country, sampling more than 15,000 hot dogs. In addition, 300 people competed in the challenge. Traffic to Sara Lee's Web site increased 30% from March to August. "It exceeded our expectations," Matheu says. "We really feel like we have 41,000 new brand ambassadors out there."
MWW Group is looking ahead to new campaigns to raise awareness about the Ball Park brand.
PR team: Sara Lee Food & Beverage (Chicago) and MWW Group (East Rutherford, NJ)
Campaign: The Great American Hot Dog Taste Challenge
Duration: May to August 2006