Marketing the Top Dog in an Anti-Dog World

Good News for Sara Lee: Ball Park brand has finally pushed its top competitor, Oscar Meyer, out of the number one beef frankfurter spot.

Bad News for Sara Lee: Institutions worldwide are taking a harder line against “junk foods”, including America’s favorite, the hot dog. Apparently timing is everything.

With public sentiment shifting, the iconic wiener is in danger of no longer being as American as baseball; but then again, neither is baseball (and the vote is still out on apple pie). It would seem schools don’t want kids eating unhealthy foods, nor does the federal government for that matter, which means parents will eventually limit if not eliminate the poor frankfurter from their regular diets. And hot dogs, for better or worse, could someday become the new face of antiestablishmentarianism.

As the new king of the hill, Ball Park plans to capitalize on its success by upgrading its traditional campaign strategies.

According to BrandChannel, Ball Park’s marketing efforts are focusing on a new demographic: moms and their sons. The brand conducted consumer research and discovered that its sales primarily come from teenage boys and their mothers, and not adult males as had been assumed [Editorial aside: why didn’t they already know this?]. This realization helped CMO Philippe Shaillee to redirect promotional efforts. Shaillee explained that the target mom was “really looking for a hearty solution for her teenage son and husband,” and not “just a lower quality snack or that would get them into this mindless eating behavior, but something that was solid, yet still fast and convenient.”

They also plan to do some sports-based advertising and some social media stuff. Oddly there is no mention of nutrition or healthy foods. So I went to the Ball Park website, where I found a whole line of “Better For You” product offerings – low-to-no fat and far fewer calories, but with all the great taste. Now that’s a hot dog marketing angle you can wrap your arms around.

Regardless, there is no apparent need to panic. Ballparks in the United States expect to sell nearly 22 million hot dogs this year, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council. And that’s just a tiny portion of the 730 million packages of hot dogs sold at retail stores last year.

Anyway, a healthy hot dog is better than no hot dog.

Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.