Kingsford celebrates Black culture with Preserve the Pit campaign

The campaign aims to educate the public about Black influence on barbecue and give Black pitmasters skills to succeed in future business ventures.

OAKLAND, CA: Kingsford has launched the Preserve the Pit initiative in an effort to maintain the cultural history of Black barbecue and invest in its future. 

With the help of Current Global, Kingsford's agency of record, the campaign endeavors to support Black pitmasters across the country and continue to support the future of the craft, according to Shannon McGovern, the SVP at Current Global who led the campaign. 

“As the modern-day story of barbecue continues to unfold, it's important to celebrate those who have made it what it is today,” said Shaunte Mears-Watkins, VP of strategy and marketing for Kingsford. “The traditions of Black pitmasters helped bring barbecue into the center of American culture, but their contributions are not always given the spotlight.”

When putting together the communications strategy, McGovern built an integrated team to ensure an authentic message for Kingsford's stakeholders. 

“We wanted to make sure we were really building the program for the audience we were trying to reach, so as we started out, we enlisted a diverse and integrated team,” she said.

The campaign is anchored by the Preserve the Pit fellowship, which grants aspiring barbecue pros the opportunity for training and one-on-one mentoring with top barbecue leaders. 

The mentor network includes chef Kevin Bludso of Bludso's BBQ, pitmaster and barbecue educator Howard Conyers and FoodLab Detroit executive director Devita Davison. 

The campaign kicked off January 25 when Kingsford launched an original video across its social channels outlining the history of barbecue in Black culture across the country and encouraged the next generation of Black pitmasters to “blaze their own trail.”

In the first 48 hours, the Preserve the Pit fellowship saw almost 300 applicants and garnered more than 100 million impressions with coverage on CNN.com, Southern Living and Black Information Network. 

McGovern used a “360 approach” to amplify the campaign's messaging, using influencers, social and earned media to draw applicants, but it was also used to educate the public about the contributions of Black barbecue in America. 

The application period closes at the end of March, and the fellows will be announced in April. Afterward, a second phase of the communications strategy will start. 

“Pending participants' comfort level, our hope is to share their stories throughout [the fellowship] process,” McGovern said. “That will be really important, especially to those who have been following along with the initiative since it launched.”

Current Global looks to use video content and interviews either on Kingsford's own channels or through the media to tell these stories.  

When pitching to media outlets, McGovern took two approaches. The first focused on the history of barbecue, featuring interviews being conducted by Conyers on the influence of Black people on the culinary art. 

The second looks to the future, doing interviews with mentors about what people can learn from the fellowship. 

“The highlight of working on this project is how passionate everyone on our team at Current Global has been,” McGovern said. “I applaud Kingsford's boldness to step out into this space and keep a people-first approach for this really important message.”

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