Ball Park Wants People to 'Grab Life by the Ball Park'

Not 'So American' Anymore As Company Enters Trendy Jerky Category

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Ball Park is dropping its "So American" tagline in a new push to have people "Grab Life by the Ball Park" while extending the brand into the crowded jerky market.

Ball Park had used "So American" for about two-and-a-half years. While the brand liked the campaign, it wanted to try something fresh. At the same time, the brand is stretching beyond refrigerated and frozen food for the first time with Ball Park Flame Grilled Jerky.

The moves come more than a year after Ball Park and its parent company, Hillshire Brands, were acquired by Tyson Foods. However, the team has been working on a jerky idea for about two years, said Timothy Smith, VP-general manager of Tyson's Emerging Brands Group, including jerky.

"We have high-growth aspirations in jerky, which we think will be fantastic in building the overall Ball Park brand," said Mr. Smith.

He said the company is going to nearly double total Ball Park overall marketing working dollars as part of the new push, which will continue with "Grab Life by the Ball Park" messaging for hot dogs and hamburger patties in 2016.

The jerky is being advertised in a new spot from Y&R New York that suggests the jerky and its eaters have both a tough side and a tender side.

For Ball Park, the hope is to grab current jerky eaters while also bringing its hot dog and hamburger fans who trust the brand into the category. According to IRI data shared by Ball Park, jerky only had 16% household penetration in the 52 weeks ended Aug. 16. The category is growing rapidly. According to research released in June by the NPD Group, adult consumption of meat snacks rose 18% over the last five years.

Jack Link's is the dominant player in the meat snacks category with $1.19 billion in 2014 sales, followed by ConAgra's Slim Jim with $432.9 million in sales, according to Euromonitor International.

Ball Park jerky will be priced at parity to mainstream brands, such as Jack Link's. Established players in the category have been bringing out a variety of new products and flavors, such as Jack Link's Korean BBQ pork jerky. And they continue to advertise, from Jack Link's long-running "Messin' With Sasquatch" campaign to Oberto's "Heroes of Summer" program that ran this year and included Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. Oberto's tagline is "You Get Out What You Put In."

Niche players are also gaining ground. In 2013, Hillshire Brands bought premium jerky maker Golden Island. Earlier this year, Hershey showed the snack world how important the category is by buying another high-end player, Krave, which focuses on flavors such as Black Cherry Barbecue pork jerky and Basil Citrus turkey jerky.

Mr. Smith said having two different jerky brands under the Tyson umbrella is not a concern, as the more tender Golden Island jerky and Ball Park's tough yet tender message go after different parts of the market. Ball Park envisions its brand appealing to more mainstream jerky eaters, while Golden Island covets a more upscale niche.

Ball Park jerky's marketing push includes a partnership with the Southeastern Conference's SEC Network, which IPG Mediabrands' BPN helped pull together. Brand messaging will be integrated into some of the announcers' play-by-play. For example, an announcer might say "dried to be tough, flame grilled to be tender" during appropriate in-game opportunities, such as when a player does something tender like helping a player up, Mr. Smith said.

The brand's sports tie-in now goes with football under the SEC Network deal, a switch from Ball Park's roots. As the story goes, Ball Park franks got their start in 1957, when the owner of the Detroit Tigers was looking for something new to serve at the baseball stadium.

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