In the consumer activation space, celebrity chef partnerships can not only help generate buzz for events, they can use their “expert” status to legitimize marketing messages. Earlier this year, legendary canned meat product SPAM leveraged a celebrity chef partnership with the Food Network’s Sunny Anderson to promote creative and high-end uses for the product. The experience tied in local chef expertise, as well, in markets across the country while on tour.
We tapped Herb Karlitz, owner of Karlitz & Co., an event marketing agency focused on food experiences, festivals and partnerships, for advice on cooking up a chef strategy. Here are his top three tips:
1. Think beyond the “celebrity chef.”
Famous chefs come in a variety of, well, flavors, and sometimes you can offer more “edgy” or in-the-know expertise by partnering with Michelin-star or James Beard award-winning chefs. The best fit might also be a “rising star” chef featured in top food and wine publications, but never seen on TV. “It could easily be a restaurant name that you leverage for the partnership,” Karlitz says. “Some of the hottest and hard-to-get reservations are where everybody knows the name, but nobody knows the chef.”
2. Agree on a promo and content plan.
Take advantage of the time you have with the chef to generate buzz. Celebrity Cruises for a Super Bowl fan zone experience leveraged top chefs to demonstrate its onboard cuisine—filming and photographing them in action to use as content on a media partner’s website. For a recent campaign launch event, Pure Leaf Iced Tea brought in Bravo “Top Chef” Gail Simmons to conduct demos that the press could film and post—as well as the brand.
3. Leverage micro experiences.
Engage a limited group of influencers, VIPs, customers or a select group of consumers for a cooking class during an activation, or a “backstage” tour of a restaurant kitchen with the executive chef. A solid strategy, according to Karlitz, is an experience that gives attendees a good story to tell their friends and family. Perhaps, it’s a wine tasting where an expert features a select group of wines that they serve, and are affordable. “They can tell their friends and dinner party guests that this is the wine this chef drinks, and talk about why,” Karlitz says. Cheers to that.
• Nine Strategies for Cooking up Celebrity Chef Partnerships