Vienna Beef

How we made it personal

Vienna Beef Hot Dog Stand Challenge

How it connected

11.25% increase in sales over 2019

How to beat pre-Covid restaurant traffic during Covid.

Vienna Beef hot dogs are part of Chicago culture. In fact, Chicago has more hot dog stands than it does McDonalds, Wendy's and Burger King restaurants combined.

But during the pandemic, foot traffic to local hot dog stands, like all restaurants, went way down. So to reignite Chicago's hot dog obsession, we challenged people to eat at all 367 Vienna Beef stands in Chicagoland and dubbed it the Vienna Beef Hot Dog Stand Challenge.

Okay, it wasn't the easiest task. But, hey, if Chicagoans could wait more than 100 years for a Cubs title, they could certainly do this. And (spoiler alert) they did.

367 Hot Dog Stands.60 Days. 22,020 QR Codes.

A few logistics (for people who care about that sort of thing).

Making the contest a reality wasn't as simple as issuing the challenge. First, we had to wrangle 367 independent Vienna Beef hot dog stands spread across Illinois, northern Indiana and southern Wisconsin. Then we created a system of QR codes corresponding to each stand that switched out every single day to easily track check-ins and prevent cheating.

contest QR code visual
vienna beef website experience

Thousands competed to be crowned Top Dog.

To process our check-ins and bring the challenge to life, we created a microsite complete with a hot dog stand map, a live leaderboard, prizes and a personal sign-in page with users' stats, check-in tracker and current ranking.

Then we spread the word through out of home, digital, social, radio, sponsored influencer content and good-old-fashioned PR.

posters on a brick wall

Painting the town red (and yellow) (and blue).

To get the attention of hot dog fans within walking distance of a delicious hot dog, we geofenced out-of-home placements within a one-mile radius of participating stands. We also narrowed down online placements to anyone who'd visited hot dog stands multiple times in the previous months or lived within close proximity of a participating stand. After the challenge began, we even utilized check-in data to create social posts highlighting the gameplay of specific contestants.

challenge posters and badges

Before and after launch, our LCPR team secured challenge coverage from nearly every news outlet in the area (including outlets as far out as LA), spreading the word through a total of 289 local news mentions.

The challenge earned more than 185.6M earned impressions.

At the conclusion of the challenge, the hype got so big, that Kelly Clarkson even reached out to have the winner, Stephanie Esposito, interviewed live on the Kelly Clarkson Show.