The month of September means a few things: heading back to school, the start of fall, and most importantly the start of football season. These days football is not only about what team you root for (go Giants!), but it also revolves around the pregame festivities, otherwise known as tailgating. Of course food has always been a main staple at tailgating events, but these days industry observers say consumers are getting more creative and experimental with their game day menus. Using people’s tailgates as a way for brands to market themselves is becoming increasingly popular, and increasingly helpful. Here are a few examples of food brands who use tailgating and the football season to their advantage.

               NatureSweet, a tomato company based in San Antonio, created a variety of recipes involving their product that are perfect for tailgate snacking. Some of these recipes include “sunbursts guacamole” and “sunburst and hummus on pita.” NatureSweet also gave shoppers a chance to win free groceries with its Snack with Sweetness Sweepstakes. This sweepstakes encouraged tailgaters to snap photos of themselves using NatureSweet tomatoes on game day and upload it to social media with the hashtag #snacksweet. Incentivizing customers to promote your brand through hashtags and social media is a great, and free marketing tool that NatureSweet was smart to take advantage of.

               Another company that tapped into the tailgating madness is the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC). “Potato dishes are a fan favorite during tailgate season, from the traditional Idaho Potato Skins and bacon blitz Idaho potato skewer to miso Idaho potato stuffed mushrooms, there are a million ways to incorporate potatoes into a successful tailgate party” says Jamie Bowen, the marketing manager at Idaho Potato Commission. This popularity is why they decided to take advantage of the football season. To get in the tailgate spirit, IPC provided a recipe section on their website, idahopotato.com, featuring all their favorite recipes throughout the years. Also, IPC provided an easy way to share recipes through its Potato Lover’s retail contest. The contest encourages retailers to come up with creative Idaho potato displays during tailgates in order to win free swag throughout the season.

               Lighthouse, a salad dressing company, is another company using tailgates to their advantage; but rather than creating a contest or hashtag like we saw above, Lighthouse decided to take a practical route and offer their dressing in easily prepared containers. Realizing they would score big with consumers by offering products that are simply prepared, Lighthouse decided to rethink their packaging. According to Acosta, “tailgaters get warmed up for the big game by menu planning and basing their food selection on factors like personal preference/taste; the amount of effort to prepare the food; and the amount of time to prepare the food.” All in all, tailgaters want ease which is why Lighthouse saw an increase in sales with their pre-prepared veggies and dip.

               Tailgating will always be a huge part of the football season, and although you can’t count on the players to be consistent week after week, you can count on fans to be consistent with this tradition. People set up as early as 8 am on game days to get drunk, hang with friends, and most importantly eat. Whether incentivizing consumers to use hashtags on social media, or adjusting products to please customers, brands can’t go wrong using tailgates to their advantage.