While most make plans to watch fireworks and spend time with family or friends for this fabulous fourth, a few hearty souls are busy prepping for a very different kind of Independence Day – eating till they can’t breathe comfortably at the July 4th competitive eating contest of the year. And it attracts some tasty social sentiment!
We’re talking about, of course, is arguably the food event of the year – Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. It takes place every year on 4th of July, on Coney Island starting with the women’s competition at 10:45am ET, followed by the main event featuring return champ, Joey Chestnut staring (gulping) down some stiff competition at noon.
And to say there’s lots of buzz about this online would be underselling it:
The Top Competitive Eating Contenders & Online Love
Joey Chestnut is “the world’s greatest eater” and he means business. His preparation in the days leading up to the event include stomach expanding, but not filling techniques, like eating a diet of lettuce and water – and other tricks of the trade he undoubtedly keeps under wraps.
Takeru Kobayashi was the reigning champ till Joey beat him way back in 2007. He’s not considered a serious contender this year, but deserves recognition for setting the pace for future contenders. He’s also said to be very embarrassed by his portrayal in the just released ESPN series on competitive eating, which we’ll get to in a moment!
Matt Stonie, a YouTuber who shares competitive eating challenges he completes on his very popular channel, temporarily dethroned Chestnut in a stunning upset in 2015, eating 62 hot dogs in the allotted ten minutes.
It appears the 2015 turnaround happened because Chesnut got a bit comfortable in the preceding years, with a hot dog count that had fallen from 69 to 61 the year before:
But Chestnut has definitely learned from that year and has consistently raised the bar, downing 74 hot dogs in last year’s competition.
And then there’s a fairly new super eater coming for all of them – Carmen Cincotti, who is currently ranked the #2 competitive eater worldwide and has been hot on Chestnut’s heels since 2017.
Why Viewers Love It
The lifestyle of the competitive eater, as documented in the newly released ESPN piece, The Good, The Bad and The Hungry, chronicles the life of these extreme sport contenders. And it’s specifically focused on the rivalry between Chestnut and Kobayashi.
The timing for the release of this installation – the latest in its 30 for 30 series – is perfect, eclipsing the main event itself in Top Brand mentions:
And dominating top hashtags as well:
What is it about the sport that captivates audiences?
The appeal of any extreme sport is strong, and this is no different. What drives people to watch or take part in extreme sports ranges from the adrenaline rush due to the dangerousness of it, to “feeling alive” and “gaining extensive recognition” for doing well. It’s a heady experience, for sure.
It’s the ultimate “spectator sport,” with competitive eating acting as one that feels accessible to most viewers. They could do it, but just wouldn’t. As health risks are top of mind when watching the massive quantities these contenders consume.
Dangers of Competitive Eating
In the documentary, Kobayashi shares that it takes him about three days to recover.
“I feel so exhausted and so out of breath,” Kobayahi said referring to his stomach being over-extended, and the toll it takes on him. “When my stomach becomes very full with that amount of food inside, the organs in my body begin to shift places. So, for example, my lungs get shifted up, and they can’t expand. They have no room to expand. So, when I breathe, I become very short of breath. That’s one of the main things that happens right after eating,” he said.
And Chestnut shares that he’s gained 24 lbs in one sitting, after eating all those hot dogs.
Competitive eating was a topic of discussion at the recent Royal College of Occupational Therapists annual conference – as the #rcot2019 hashtag above in our “top hashtags” screenshot indicates.
It was viewed as an addiction, much like gambling. They may have a point!
Win or Lose, Everyone Wins
Though Joey “The Jaws” Chesnut took home the prize, having eaten 71 hot dogs in ten minutes, this wiener winner wasn’t the only one winning this Independence Day.
The other competitors also won as it expanded their renown and upped the ante for a rematch, as each competitive eater has a hardcore following. The influencer amplification game is a high stakes match in itself, and the more relevant exposure each gets is another notch regardless of outcome.
The competitive eating niche itself gets a boost as well, of course, which is always good for business from the competitive eater standpoint. So even those who didn’t come close to winning can gain some credibility for competing.
And then hot dogs, in general, and certainly Nathan’s brand, in particular, solidify their standing as being associated with 4th of July cookouts as America’s hot dog. “Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, about 7 billion hot dogs will be consumed in the U.S., and on the Fourth of July more than 150 million hot dogs will be consumed alone.”
So yes, hot dogs retain their standing yet again.
And copycats win as well . . .
Copycats Are Smart
And it seems eating contests, particularly hot dog eating contests – are big on the 4th. Who knew?
Far from attempting to compete with the famous event, they’re just attaching themselves to it.
The Plaza Hotel & Casino is offering “downtown Las Vegas’ only hot dog eating contest in the style of the famous event held annually at Coney Island. The contest winner will receive a grand prize, which includes $200, a free two night stay at the Plaza, $150 to Oscar’s Steakhouse, a free pool cabana plus $50 towards food and beverage at the Pool at the Plaza.”
And the sponsor, Hoffy Hot Dogs, is capturing some brand recognition from it as well.
Other locations as well, like Pittsburg:
And that’s really just a sampling of them. It reveals an opportunity for any location to latch on to the competitive eating space and host their own hot dog eating contest next year. Or . . . to potentially capture the competitive eating crowd using other food items during other times of the years.
Pumpkin pie in October? Turkey in November? Chocolate in February? That last one might be too messy/pricey, but you get the idea.
If you’d like other nonfood item ideas specific to your brand, reach out and we’ll help you identify adjacencies you’d never have considered otherwise! Because, yes – we view sentiment analysis at its own extreme sport and love showing off what it’s capable of. Click here for a demo!