- Frito-Lay's Tostitos chip brand will serve as presenting sponsor for a livestreamed nacho competition between actor Bill Murray and Food Network personality and restaurateur Guy Fieri, according to a news release. The stream was set up in partnership with the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), the philanthropic arm of the National Restaurant Association.
- The "Nacho Average Showdown" event airing on Facebook Live on May 15 supports restaurant workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, encouraging donations to the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund (RERF). Hosted by Carla Hall, the virtual competition will see Murray and Fieri, along with their sons, vie to make the best plate of nachos as judged by celebrity guests Shaquille O'Neal and Terry Crews.
- Other brand partners for the event include Ecolab, Tito's Handmade Vodka, Tyson Foods, Modelo Negra, Food Network and Uber Eats, the latter of which is the official delivery partner. The stream airing at 5 p.m. ET will encourage viewers to give to the RERF through a button shared on Food Network's official Facebook page.
With live sports and other destination viewing events canceled en masse due to the coronavirus pandemic, marketers are seeking out alternative channels to stay relevant with consumers during a down period. The "Nacho Average Showdown" acts as another example of how networks and brands are getting more creative with their content strategies while also trying to raise awareness for COVID-19 relief.
The star-studded livestreamed event sponsored by Tostitos is targeted at one of the business categories most immediately impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, as there are now 8 million unemployed restaurant workers, per data from the National Restaurant Association. A focus on celebrities and light-hearted humor could provide a welcome diversion for people anxious over a day-to-day deluge of bad news related to the virus.
Fieri, famous for his Food Network series "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," has been actively pushing to support those whose jobs have been affected by the pandemic. The RERF project he set up in partnership with the NRAEF claims to have raised more than $22 million for out-of-work restaurant workers so far. The initiative provides restaurant workers with $500 grants, and 100% of donations made to RERF go toward the funds.
With unemployment on the rise and the stability of restaurants a continuing issue, more brands are jumping in to champion such causes and grow loyalty with consumers who are looking to corporations to lead the pandemic response.
Frito-Lay parent PepsiCo has run similar events in recent weeks. Pepsi in April sponsored a global livestream organized by the World Health Organization and advocacy group Global Citizen. The broadcast was shown across services like Amazon Prime Video, Twitch and YouTube and featured a virtual Lady Gaga concert, as well as appearances from other pop stars like Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Billie Eilish.
At the same time, marketers in sectors like CPG are feeling a pinch to their budgets as store closures and supply chain disruptions eat into sales. On a call discussing Q1 earnings with analysts last month, PepsiCo CFO Hugh Johnston said the organization is "reducing nonessential advertising and marketing spend to reflect the realities of the current environment," a strategic move also being enacted by rivals like Coca-Cola.
More brands are now shifting investments to areas like livestreaming or esports as a lower-cost way to stay active and meet quarantined consumers where they're spending more of their time. Facebook Live, which struggled for years to gain mainstream traction, has received a boost thanks to the pandemic. From February to March, when the coronavirus started to make a clearer impact on the U.S., Facebook Live viewership was up 50% in the states, according to figures shared by the social media giant.