Thursday, March 12, 2009
Haven’t I heard that somewhere before?
After competing at the Diamond State BBQ contest held on the infield at Dover Downs in Delaware for the first time in 2007 I had a few thoughts and ideas. The teams were cited inside the track in the area where the NASCAR drivers’ motor homes are parked for a race weekend. The spot is very spacious and includes water, electric, sewer and even a hook up for cable TV. The area is level, easily accessed, comfortable, some concrete, some grass, in other words, a great place to hold a BBQ contest.
When it came time for the contest awards on Saturday, the organizers had chosen a spot in the middle of the infield near the team area. There was no stage or elevated platform to announce from, the announcer just stood in front of the band at ground level and gave out the awards. The contest was fairly large for around these parts and included over 80 teams. After everyone, sitting and standing surrounded announcer, most of the folks, us included, couldn’t see a thing. Which I guess is not a real big deal, but I like being able to see all of the cooks receiving their awards after their name is called. For me, that is part of the fun.
I also felt that, although we were inside of the notorious Monster Mile, there was not one reference to the world famous surroundings during the entire contest. For me, it was like going to Fenway Park for a baseball card convention, and no one mentioning the Green Monster. It was, how do I put this, an abomination.
In late October 2007 I sent along an e mail to the Dover contest organizers. In that note, after I thanked them for their hospitality, I highlighted several ideas and suggestions that I had for improving their contest. The main thrust was tying together the speedway, NASCAR, and the contest. For starters, my suggestion was to include more of a Monster Mile tie in with the contest in general with tee shirts, racing type decorations and logos within the contest site.
I then suggested that the awards ceremony be held in victory lane, which is set up perfectly with its bleacher style seating. Everyone could see all of the awards, plus I think it would be cool to be there accepting awards. Again, in keeping with the racing type theme, sponsor logos and signage would provide a great backdrop for photographs of teams as they accepted their awards. Even teams that were not called to the stage would probably opt to have their picture taken in front of a neatly designed backdrop. This would be a win win, the organizers would get the contest name out and the sponsors would have their logos live on through the many pictures that would be taken. One thing we all know, most BBQ folks take a lot of pictures, and many post their contest pics on the net, again, a huge plus for sponsoring companies. If for some obscure NASCAR rule, victory lane was off limits, have the ceremony on or near the start finish line, on an elevated stage complete with checkered flags and bunting, again, running with the racing theme.
My alcohol soaked brain then went into overdrive. You have these speedways all around the country that are idle for many months of the year. Why not marry NASCAR with KCBS, using the speedways for contest venues, they are perfect. The demographics for the BBQ participants and NASCAR fans are very similar. I am not a marketing expert, but I surely think that some advertising wiz would certainly be able to come up with a slew of clever adds and merchandising gimmicks linking the fast cars of NASCAR to the slooow cooks of the KCBS circuit. I have a half a dozen in mind already and I am not even on the payroll. It would be an advertising agencies dream account, a slow one over the middle of the plate ready to get knocked out of the park. A home run, waiting to be hit.
The contests could be held inside the tracks, like at Dover, which is a great set up. If the accommodations inside the track would not work at a particular location, most of the race tracks have huge parking areas which could easily be turned into a contest venue for a BBQ weekend, using the track as a background. Again, mostly everything needed for the logistics of a contest is already present at the racetracks.
I thought that with some planning and a little forethought, someone could develop a BBQ series similar to the NASCAR Race to the Chase. This could include the events that were held at the speedways. The championship contest, based on season points, would be held near the end of the year, crowning the Champ for that season. I know it needs some work, but it has got some possibilities.
I would not envision the contests being held at the tracks on race weekends, but during the year when the NASCAR boys were else where. There could be some tie-in bringing the top cooks to race weekends for demos and such, or bringing the occasional driver or crew chief to a BBQ contest, the possibilities are endless, in my opinion.
Some NASCAR teams could choose to send their display cars to set up at the BBQ contests, again, a plus for the sponsoring companies, more exposure. There may even be interest, if the crowds were large enough, to have some of the race team souvenir trailers at a contest weekend.
NASCAR’S involvement in the sport would have several positive effects. I think it would bring in more money for contest payouts, therefore generating team interest. There would also be more sponsor interest in the BBQ teams as well as more interest generated to the general public, you know the millions and millions that DON’T watch the Food Network. Heck, while we are at it, lets bring the Food Network on board as a partner too, the more the merrier.
I know, I know, there are many that say there is already too much money in BBQ and to bring in a large outfit like NASCAR would be the beginning of the end. I will save that discussion for another day. One thing that can’t be argued, competition BBQ cooking is quickly becoming a very popular sport.
Of course, I received no response to my suggestions other than the standard ‘thank you for your suggestion, we will take it under consideration’ reply. I then digressed to telling my brilliant idea to anyone that would stand still for more than five minutes for a week or so before it was lost in the fog of everyday life. Every once in a while, the thought would resurface, I would knock it around, add a little to it, take a little off, then forget about it for the next few months or so. You can imagine my surprise when I got to the 2008 Dover contest this past October and saw not one of my suggestions or ideas being used. So much for that brilliant idea, I thought to myself.
So, how do you think I felt when last Thursday as I walked back from the mailbox glancing at the front page of the Bullsheet, the monthly publication put out by KCBS. There was an article about the annual banquet that was recently held in Nashville TN. The word NASCAR jumped out at me and I almost fell over. There in black and white was an announcement at the banquet that NASCAR and KCBS were teaming up for an experimental contest. As I read through the article I saw the statement, “It seems that someone has finally realized that the bbq demographic and the NASCAR demographic are pretty similar. Kudos to MMA.” Hey wait a minute, those are not my initials! Who is this guy MMA and where did he come up with that one? Well, you can imagine how I felt, another one of my great ideas, down the drain due to my inaction.
So that I am clear, I am not saying that anyone or any group stole my idea. It was not mine to steal. I had the thought, told a few folks, but did nothing to further or promote the idea. I just sat on it. (as usual) And, as anyone that knows me will tell you, if I am sitting on it, it ain’t goin no where! (not that my can is all that big, but you get the picture) Therefore it was not mine. I just thought it would be an interesting topic for this blog entry.
I will, however, say that throughout my short time on this planet, I have had a few other good ideas that I have not acted upon only to see someone else take to the next level and enjoy great success while I watched from the sidelines. Home delivery for pizza and subs comes to mind about 30 years ago, can anyone say Dominos?
I guess the point here, if there is a point, if you have a great idea, don’t be afraid to act on it. Get out there and run with it. “Just do it”, as the tag line goes. Because if you don’t, you might find yourself watching as your idea goes up in flames, right before your eyes. As for me, it doesn’t really bother me anymore; I have seen it all before. Meanwhile, I am going to track down this guy MMA to see if he will hire me as a consultant I’ve got a few more ideas on this KCBS/NASCAR deal!
Bloggers note: MMA Creative is the agency of record for the Kansas City Barbeque Society, handling the organization’s promotional and sponsorship efforts. KCBS is the nation’s largest barbeque organization, sanctioning nearly 300 competitions from coast to coast and consisting of more than 8,000 barbeque professionals.