What do brands such as 7-11, Armour and Hooters have in common? They all sponsor competitive binge-eating contests. In case you've somehow missed it, competitive binge eating is the next new thing. Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs pioneered the caloriefest and now lots of other brands are following suit (and setting a horrific example for a nation already beset by obesity and weight-related illnesses).
All of which spells opportunity for some enterprising public relations entrepreneur. In fact, I'll bet a quarter pounder with cheese that there's some latter-day, bizarro world version of Carol Cone just salivating over the revenue potential. (Note: Carol Cone is widely recognized in PR circles for pioneering cause marketing and corporate social responsibility programs. Today, nearly every organization purports to 'do good' and some actually do.)
But, back to the business development opportunity. This past July 4th weekend, Joey 'The Jaws' Chestnut won his fifth consecutive Nathan's hot dog eating contest at Coney Island by consuming 62 dogs in 10 minutes (@ 397 calories per frank, Jaws inhaled some 24,614 calories in 600 seconds. I gag just looking at those numbers).
I'm also thrilled to report that Sonya Thomas won Nathan's first-ever women's competition by scarfing down 40 dogs in the same 10 minutes. I say thrilled because now women can't point to this obscenity as yet another example of 'stupid guy things.'
By winning their respective competitions, Chestnut and Thomas automatically become members of the Major League Eating Hall of Fame. For you non-foodies, MLE is the official governing body of binge eating and includes such other superstar athletes as:
– Don Lerman, who holds a world's record for consuming SIX POUNDS of baked beans in one minute and 48 seconds (note to self: do NOT stand downwind of Big Don).
– Cookie Jarvis, who shoveled down six and two-thirds pounds of linguini at one sitting (and, I'll bet she remained seated for some time afterwards. I wouldn't be able to move for a week).
– Takeru Kobayoshi, who sucked down 57 cow brains in 15 minutes (something tells me Kobayoshi-san didn't have much category competition, though. "The cow brain-eating contest? Hell no. I'm here to throw back some bratwurst.").
A cursory glance at the World Eating League's website reveals such major sponsors as Heinz and Pepto-Bismol. Heinz ketchup and mustard has to be the K-Y Jelly of binge-eating. I can't believe anyone can taste anything after, say, the 41st dog has inched its way past the trachea. It's all about lubrication at that point.
Pepto's marketing spend is a no-brainer. But where are Tums, Immodium and, of course, Scott Tissue?
And, how, exactly do the makers of Heinz and Pepto explain their sponsorships in annual reports? "In another area of cause marketing, Your Company once again contributed $1 million to sponsor the World Eating League. Management and directors alike believe obesity is not a problem but, rather, an opportunity that will provide immediate shareholder growth (and girth)."
I jest of course. These companies should be ashamed of themselves. So, too, should the competitors, who actually believe they're athletes. I always thought athletes burned calories, not consumed them.
The real losers though, as always, are our nation's kids. I can just picture 12-year-old, 200-pound Johnny or Sally Ann giving up on their fitness program and opting instead to pursue a career as a World Eating Champion. "Hey mom and dad! I finally know what I want to be when I grow up. The king of the hot dog eating universe!"
But, enough already with French Fries finger pointing and Buffalo wing bashing, I have a business plan to write and some misbehaving brands to pitch. I think Corporate Social Irresponsibility is PR's next BIG thing (and, what a great double entendre the service offering's initials will make. "CSI? You betcha! In fact, we have an entire division devoted to it.").
And a tip o' the toque to Valerie "the Foodie" Di Maria for this suggestion.