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April 9, 2001

By Stephanie Thompson

NEW YORK ( -- After nearly 30 years of telling consumers that its franks "plump when you cook 'em," Ball Park

Will consumers find their inner man in Ballpark Franks?
Brands takes its hearty positioning even further, offering this year that the hot dogs allow people to "Eat like a man."

The shift, part of an untraditionally male-oriented tack for the Sara Lee Corp. unit, was devised by Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, during its successful pitch for the $30 million account last year.

Interpublic Group of Cos.' Lowe Lintas & Partners, New York, previously handled Ball Park.

"There was a lot of equity in the idea of how a Ball Park Frank 'plumps when you cook 'em,' but [we felt] Ball Park wasn't focusing on that product equity strongly enough," said Lisa Bennett, executive vice president-executive creative director, Leo Burnett. "The tagline said a lot about the product being more satisfying and bigger than others, and who does that appeal to? Men."

Real men eat franks
Now, Ball Park puts that insight to work, launching a new TV and print campaign April 30 that steers clear of hot dog manufacturers' more typical female-targeted ads depicting barbecues and outdoor grilling scenes, in favor of something more original.

In "Purse," a man stands uncomfortably waiting for his wife in a sophisticated women's clothing shop. As the shot changes to reveal the man holding his wife's purse, the voice-over declares, "At least you can eat like a man," and a package of Ball Park Franks falls into the screen.

Print ads, which Ball Park returns to this year, will likewise feature men in situations that compromise their masculinity, such as sitting in a salon chair in a flowered smock, or at a "chick flick" where women all around are crying.

'Sports-oriented' food
"In testing, Leo Burnett asked consumers to answer the question, 'If Ball Park was a person, how would you describe it?' and people came back with 'male,' 'sports-oriented' and other attributes we really haven't leveraged in the past," said Earnestine Benford, vice president-marketing for Ball Park Brands.

Even though Michael Jordan is a spokesman for the brand -- and will likely be used in later executions of the new campaign -- previous ads starring the sports star aired during daytime programming, capitalizing on Mr. Jordan's celebrity status to gain awareness among women.

Now, in addition to the male-targeted theme and TV buys on dual-gender cable weekend programming, Ball Park will build its new, more manly positioning through an in-store tie-in with Nascar that begins in July, Ms. Benford said.

Kraft Foods' Oscar Mayer brand leads the $1.7 billion refrigerated frankfurter category with sales up 7% to $307 million for the 52 weeks ended Feb. 25, according to Information Resources Inc. Ball Park ranks second with sales up 4.2% to $261 million. Kraft spent only $1 million in measured media in 2000 on Oscar Mayer, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

Copyright April 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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