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Put a Little Mustard on That Sponsorship
August 2, 2018
By Brett Grischo

I was just at Coney Island a few weeks ago with one of my boys and his buddy. We had never been and thought it would be fun to subway over from Manhattan and check it out. On the way, I was imagining it being the middle of the night and we were in a mad dash to get ‘home’ safely without being attacked by The Lizzies, Baseball Furies, Orphans or Punks! “Warriors, come out to play-ay.

Thankfully we arrived without any gang attacks and we enjoyed the boardwalk, Coney Island Beach and some of the amusement park rides. We were there just a week before the biggest event of the year at Coney Island – the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. Its quite the marketing strategy to utilize a completely disgusting display of people shoving wieners down their throats at an alarming rate to promote a brand. Joey Chestnut repeated as champion by downing 74 hotdogs in ten minutes. I think one hotdog is plenty gross enough. 74?!?!?!?!?

Nathan’s Famous has done a good job of “owning” the hot dog eating contest. Somehow the event evokes a positive association that I assume helps them sell wieners and drive customers to their stores. I wonder how much advertising and marketing they do outside of this annual event?

Sponsorships are difficult to value because there are so many aspects that aren’t quantifiable. I’m not sure how Nathan’s Famous measures the success of their advertising and marketing campaigns, other than via sales numbers. But there is no doubt the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest is the SuperBowl of frankfurters.

No matter what the budget is, we consider events, sponsorships, guerilla marketing and grassroots efforts for all of our clients, in addition to traditional and digital advertising tactics. Brands need to not only engage with their target market, but they also need to add value, whether its via entertainment, information or education. Hopefully they can pull off all three, in a relevant and timely fashion.

Nathan’s Famous has definitely provided relevant, timely entertainment via their annual hot dog eating contest and I’m sure Coney Island also benefits from the increased visitors and regular mentions in association with the event.  With all that said, I still don’t want a Nathan’s Famous hotdog. Or any hotdog.

Our advice to any client considering a sponsorship is to set up a list of filters in order to evaluate the opportunity and compare it to other options. For example, will the sponsorship:

  • directly lead to sales
  • create or increase preferential brand awareness
  • promote goodwill and/or a positive association with the community
  • be targeted to a large percentage of the primary audience
  • potentially create negative backlash (for example, is there a celebrity involved)
  • be worth the dollars compared to applying those funds to more traditional advertising
  • generate engagement with the target audience
  • satisfy any political agendas
  • support the company values and community goals
  • require personnel to activate and execute
  • be measurable (what are those data points and what would be considered successful)
  • generate positive publicity and/or earned media
  • gross out people (I really don’t like watching people shove hotdogs down their pie-hole)

The best marketing campaigns tend to be multi-media working in conjunction with earned media, pushed content, audience engagement and internal support. Sponsorships can certainly be a part of that mix. With all the options out there and budgets that are never enough dollars, be sure to evaluate everything and consider the opportunity cost. If you need help, we’d relish (ba-dum-dum) the opportunity to help you evaluate your sponsorships.

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