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Ball Park beefs up Memorial Day marketing with SMS, Twitter advice hotline

Ball Park is one of several brands tapping the upcoming Memorial Day weekend and consumers' love of hot dogs to make a connection on mobile, leveraging a Finest Franks Hotline where users may call, text and Tweet for advice on hot dog grilling topics, as well as a social media contest to win a year?s supply of frankfurters.

Nathan?s Famous, a fellow hot dog marketer, is running a selfie sweepstakes on Twitter for consumers to win weekly and monthly prizes, while the Food Network is joining the fun by posting recipes on Twitter for unique hot dog toppings and garnishes ahead of Memorial Day on May 25, a popular grilling and barbecuing holiday. Ball Park is also leveraging a social media contest, but is taking its marketing to the next level with the launch of the Finest Franks Hotline, for consumers who prefer to receive cooking tips from a live person.

?We know during the summer months, consumers are seeking information about grilling, hot dogs, and barbecuing,? said Kristina Lambert, vice president and general manager of Ball Park brand, Springdale, AR. ?Whether someone is unsure about the best way to grill a hot dog or is wondering where they can find the new Ball Park Park?s Finest varieties, the Finest Franks Hotline will be their go-to resource to ensure no hot dog or grilling question goes unanswered this summer.

?We?re excited to provide consumers direct access to our more than 60 years of knowledge and expertise because we want this to be their best summer grilling season yet,? she said. ?Memorial Day marks the unofficial kick-off to summer and as millions of Americans fire up their grills this weekend, our goal is to be a resource for questions, grilling inspirations and tips.

?Knowing there are many grilling occasions taking place throughout the course of the summer, we felt it was important to have the Finest Franks Hotline available to consumers from Memorial Day through Labor Day.?

Offering frank advice
Now through Labor Day, hot dog enthusiasts can phone, text or Tweet at the Finest Franks hotline to receive expert tips on grilling topics, such as which utensils are best to use, or advice on how to make the most delectable hot dog dishes.

This functions as a unique marketing tactic that other food and marketers should take note of. While hotlines may be considered outdated by some, the ability for consumers to reach the experts in a multitude of mobile-friendly ways certainly speaks to Ball Park?s desire to increase customer outreach and be accessible through every mobile channel.

?In a world where we can do just about anything from a mobile device, connecting with our consumers through this platform is critical,? Ms. Lambert said. ?We knew mobile had to be a key consideration for the Finest Franks Hotline to be successful and it wasn?t enough to simply offer a telephone number. 

?The ability to call, text or tweet to engage with the hotline provides consumers the opportunity to get in touch with Ball Park Brand no matter where they are or what they are doing.?

While offering mobile-friendly campaigns may be an imperative tool for food and beverage marketers, other brands in different sectors must consider whether mobile is the best way to forge long-lasting consumer relationships.

?Mobile friendly campaigns are not suited for all brands but should be considered by any brand that wants to engage their consumers on a personal level,? said Nadine Spuls, director of business development at Atimi, Vancouver, BC. ?This can be a challenging industry to achieve this is and brand engineers need to design these campaigns around more than just the taste of their product, they need to tap into the enjoyment and experiences around the consumption of their products.?

The hotline is launching at the opportune time of Memorial Day weekend, a holiday time period where many people are celebrating the start of summer with grilling festivities or barbecues. It was one of several activities designed to promote Ball Park?s two new flavors for its Park?s Finest frankfurters, Slow Cooked Chili and Jalapeno Cheddar.

The Finest Franks hotline is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, and from 2 p.m. through 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Interested consumers may call 1-844-4FRANKS or text their inquiries to 57872.

Social media users may reach the experts by Tweeting at @BallParkBrand using the #MakeItFinest hashtag.

?I haven?t seen [this] before, especially not from any food brands,? said Shawn Prez, founder of grassroots marketing agency Power Moves Inc., New York. ?I do think it?s a unique marketing tactic.

?It will garner a lot of word of mouth for them. Getting involved in social outreach will drum up a lot of traffic for them.?

Ramping up social media
Hot dog fans are also asked to brag about their grilling skills on social media by uploading their personal images and posts to Instagram and Twitter, using the #MakeItFinest and #Humblebrag hashtags. From now through July 5, Ball Park will be awarding weekly prizes to the finest humblebrags.

?I think a lot of people will take part in it because they will want to show off their skills behind the grill,? Mr. Prez said.

A grand prize of a year?s supply of the brand?s Ball Park Park?s Finest frankfurters is also available.

Meanwhile, Nathan?s Famous is leveraging a similar strategy by rolling out its original selfie sweepstakes. Fans may take a selfie with a Nathan?s Famous product in tow and upload them to www.NathansSelfie.com or Instagram and Twitter via the #NathansSelfie hashtag.

Entries may also be emailed to for a chance to be featured as the Fan of the Week and win a series of weekly and grand prizes, including a trip to New York City and a block party featuring the brand?s mobile unit.

The Food Network also showcased its article on twelve unexpected hot dog toppings on Twitter as consumers head to supermarkets in preparation for Memorial Day parties. The television channel asked users to peruse the article, and then retweet it with the inclusion of their personal favorite topping.

?We live in a digital age,? Mr. Prez said. ?It?s very necessary not just for food and beverage brands, but for all brands in the 21st century, to conform to terms and understand having these social media campaigns is important to create awareness and get people talking about their brand.?

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York