A bevy of big-name marketers are banking that the way to Super Bowl fans' hearts—and wallets—is through their stomachs.
Companies such as Pizza Hut, Papa John's, Dannon Oikos, Campbell Soup and PepsiCo will descend upon Super Bowl-related events in New York and New Jersey this week to hand out free pizza, yogurt, soup—and even wacky food concoctions such as Cherry Pepsi BBQ wings and cupcakes with Mountain Dew and Doritos frosting.
They're all trying to tie-in to the Feb. 2 Big Game, which will be played at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.
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Some marketers will serve their fare on New York City's Super Bowl Boulevard, which will be a football-themed stretch that cuts through Times Square and down Broadway. There will also be food giveaways at Manhattan's Bryant Park and at the Super Bowl stadium.
The hope is to whet consumer appetite for their products and to build overall brand awareness.
"It's a massive opportunity to sample our new product," says Doug Terfehr, a spokesman for Pizza Hut, which plans to give out about 10,000 slicesof its "hand-tossed pizza" on Wednesday and Thursday.
The fast food chain will take over a 60-foot by 55-foot parking lot in midtown Manhattan for the promotion and will have appearances by guests such as National Football League Quarterback Cam Newton and ESPN commentator Trey Wingo.
Just blocks from there, PepsiCo. will set up a tented entertainment space that will have unique fare made from its myriad products. In addition to the Cherry Pepsi BBQ wings and Mountain Dew and Doritos-flavored cupcakes, there will be Cheetos-and truffle-flavored popcorn and chicken wings made with a Mountain Dew glaze.
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Pepsi didn't have an estimate on how many people will partake in its public offering, but "we're prepared for well into the thousands to go through the tent every day," says Stephen Kalil, PepsiCo. corporate executive research chef. Its #PEPCITY-themed venue will be open Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Setting up elaborate sampling events can be labor intensive, but it's typically worth the payoff, says Dennis Lombardi,executive vice president of food service strategies at WD Partners, which is a design and development firm that specializes in food and retail.
These promotions give marketers the opportunity to showcase their fare and also provide companies with the chance to closely interact with consumers who stop by to try the food.
"Sampling is a really, really effective marketing technique," he says.
The Pepsi event will provide consumers with "really fulfilling and engaging experiences" with its many brands, says spokesman Jeff Dahncke.
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That helps to build "good will" with customers, says Pepsi chef Kalil.
Pepsi will encourage those who stop by to share their thoughts via the Twitter hashtag #PEPCITY. Pizza Hut is using the hashtag #GoForGreatness to hype its pizza giveaway and other Super Bowl activities.
By encouraging social media use , these marketers and others "can exponentially increase the power of their sampling," says Domenick Celentano, a food and beverage expert and co-founder of The Foodpreneur website.
"Mega sampling events generate great publicity," he says.
This Super Bowl will be played in an area that is susceptible to extremely cold weather. That fact isn't lost on marketers who want to warm up to consumers by providing hot fare.
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Campbell's Chunky Soup—the "official soup sponsor" of Super Bowl XLVIII—will give out samples of its Chunky line to ticketholders who gather in the MetLife Stadium's Game Day Fan Plaza on Super Sunday.
From Wednesday through Saturday, McDonald's will hand out its Premium Roast Coffee to folks on Super Bowl Boulevard. It expects to give away more than 10,000 cups of coffee.
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And even a non-food maker is getting into the sampling action. Apparel company New Era—which will play up the tagline "embrace the cold"—will hand out vanilla soft serve ice cream with sprinkles.
The company plans to distribute about 1,000 ice cream servings daily from Wednesday through Saturday. It will have NFL player Chad "OchoCinco" Johnson and New York Jets coach Rex Ryan hanging out at its ice cream truck on Super Bowl Boulevard.
And for consumers seeking some warmth after downing their ice cream, New Era will hand out free caps and handwarmers as well.
--By Laura Petrecca, USAToday.