America's love affair with food is nothing new. But sports teams pushing the envelope to capitalize on it is, like a spinach salad with pine nuts, fresh.
For the past few years, we've seen minor league baseball teams take food to a whole new level, from the Charleston Riverdogs hiring a culinary-school-trained chef to the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs building an entire identity around bacon.
The whole thing goes back to a fan who, in 2003, won a name-that-team contest after the double-A Orlando Rays announced its move to a brand-new ballpark in Montgomery, Ala. The Montgomery Biscuits have since made a mint in merchandise sales, while also selling more than 300,00 actual biscuits at its games (doused in Alaga syrup, if you know what you're doing.)
The Iron Pigs are going next level again, playing its June 10 game as the Lehigh Valley Cheesesteaks due to the team's close proximity to Philadelphia.
But perhaps no other team proves the power of the food promotion more than the Fresno Grizzlies, which last year rebranded itself as a food for one game. The Fresno Tacos game last August dovetailed with the annual Taco Truck Throwdown at the ballpark. The jerseys and hats got more attention than the delicious tacos.
Baseball has proven repeatedly that a food-driven event can be a big money maker for teams. Here are a few key ingredients to pulling it off.
Involve fans. Use social media to solicit suggestions from your fan base. If an overwhelming food theme comes out of that, you know what to do.
Eat local. Montgomery and southern biscuits. Fresno and tacos. Allentown and cheesesteaks. These pairs already went together, and exploiting the connection generated civic pride that translated into more ticket and souvenir sales. What's your town's special sauce? Barbecue? Toasted ravioli? Green bean casserole? Key lime pie?
Get festive-al. One thing that made the Tacos rebranding wildly successful (so much so that the Grizzlies are now the Tacos every Tuesday) is that it tied into an event that already drew a lot of people. Can you tie your food-themed event with, say, a Taste of the Town event? Or a local cupcake bake-off?
Mind the trends. Then there are those overarching frenzies that infect cities across America thanks to chain restaurants and other food outlets pushing them. Of course, I'm talking about the autumnally ubiquitous pumpkin spice latte. C'mon people. There has GOT to be something we can do with that.
Give Kyle a shout. He likes lattes. (whole milk, but light on the foam.