NBC Bets on Side Dishes to Lure Viewers to Thanksgiving Football

NBC Sports is serving up a few days of Thanksgiving accompaniments in hopes of driving Turkey Day viewers to the main dish.

In a bid to highlight its Thanksgiving-night broadcast of a match-up between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons, NBC Sports will stuff its media channels with a clever promotion about the holiday’s many side dishes. Football fans who follow NBC Sports social-media channels will likely see some a poll asking them to choose their favorite Thanksgiving add-ons as an incentive to tune in to what the network is now calling its “Side Dish Bowl.” They will also see teams with uniforms devoted to ‘cranberry sauces,’ stuffing,’ ‘potatoes,’ and, not to be ignored, ‘green bean casserole.’

“We were thinking, ‘What can we do to get into the conversation during the day to help differentiate our game that night?’” says Lyndsay Signor, vice president of consumer engagement at NBC Sports, in an interview. “We really wanted to get people excited and to stand out in a very crowded space.”

NBC has reason to trumpet its holiday game on a day devoted to cornucopia.  NBC’s Thanksgiving games have over the past five years lured anywhere from 17 million (New York Giants vs, Washington Redskins) to 27.8 million (Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers). Its Thanksgiving game is the last piece of an all-day serving that also includes its morning broadcast of “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” and “The National Dog Show.” Some advertisers are likely to support the gamut of programming rather than send their commercials to movie repeats and other holiday-themed TV offerings.

NBC Sports has gone as far as creating complete uniforms for each “side dish” – logos, jerseys and gloves. Fans will be able to interact with their favorite on Twitter throughout the rest of the week. On Thanksgiving Day, five models dressed in the side-dish uniforms will appear on NBC’s ”Today.” And there’s a chance the winning side could be announced on TV during the game, depending on circumstances, says Signor.

The promotion evokes memories of the Bud Bowl, the animated stop-motion promotion aired by Budweiser during Super Bowls between 1989 and 1991. That commercial series played out on traditional TV, with Super Bowl viewers left wondering until the fourth quarter which team ultimately won. And because there was no social media at the time, viewers had no influence over the outcome.

In 2019, there’s more that can be done with promos. “There’s sort of this understood battle about side dishes,” says Signor,. “Which sides should we be talking about and which sides have no business being in the conversation? People like black-eyed peas in the south  and on the west coast, salad is  a very controversial topic.” The intent is “to get into the conversation during the day to help differentiate our game that night.”

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