Ball Park tries trio of new approaches for hot dog brand

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Sara Lee's Ball Park Brands division is taking a three-pronged approach to increasing household penetration of its beef franks, reaching out to kids, Kosher-lovers and Hispanics with new products and advertising.

To tap into the kids' segment, Ball Park is introducing a new line of Cheese Singles, extending the individually wrapped line into the cheese-filled variety that competitors such as Kraft Foods' Oscar Mayer division have found are popular among young children.

"Cheese is the No. 1 flavor for kids as an afternoon snack, and we haven't played in that segment before," said Earnestine Benford, VP-marketing for Ball Park.

To support the new variety, Ball Park will tag the existing TV advertising for the Singles line with news of the Cheese introduction beginning in September. That advertising carries the overall brand tagline, "They plump when you cook 'em." Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide, New York, handles.

KOSHER ENTRY

To compete in the small but growing Kosher segment of the category, Ball Park is introducing a new line of Premium Kosher Beef Franks. ConAgra's Hebrew National brand, the leading kosher hot dog, has expanded distribution and marketing efforts extensively over the last year. These efforts have capitalized on the perception among the general population of Kosher hot dogs as higher quality, and Ball Park wants to follow suit.

"People perceive Kosher as superpremium, and though the segment is still small -- representing a mere 15 million pounds a year -- it is a growing segment," Ms. Benford said.

Ball Park will promote its Kosher franks beginning in mid-June with tags on its existing Ball Park Beef Frank TV ads, via Lowe Lintas. Newspaper inserts also support.

As it expands its reach to kids and quality-seeking adults, Ball Park also is trying to target the growing Hispanic community with its first-ever Spanish-language efforts.

HISPANICS TARGETED

Beginning later this month, Ball Park will begin testing TV, radio and promotions in Miami and San Antonio, Texas, to reach the Hispanic community, which Ms. Benford said is "growing in leaps and bounds and will become a bigger part of our strategy going forward."

The advertising, from Leo Burnett USA division Lapiz, Chicago, will air on the Univision and Telemundo TV networks, and on Spanish-language radio. It features a mother with three kids in their backyard. In the TV execution, a little boy, the youngest, watches the grill where the Ball Park franks are cooking and his eyes get bigger and bigger as the hot dogs plump, a perfect setup for the "Plump when you cook 'em" theme that is also being used, in translation, in the Hispanic work.

The Hispanic effort, which Ball Park plans to roll national in 2001, stems from findings that Hispanic communities, known for big families, are heavy users of hot dogs but have been ignored by general-market efforts that did not reach them in the language they prefer, Ms. Benford said.

"Not enough consumer products have given this segment attention, especially because Hispanics are highly concentrated in basically six cities, which allows us to reach out to them nationally with only 12% of our budget," she said.

The refrigerated frankfurters category grew 4.4% to $1.6 million for the 52 weeks ended March 26, according to Information Resources Inc., with Oscar Mayer up 6.5% to $302 million and Ball Park up 11.9% to $252 million.

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