I was trying to explain the outstanding feats in live eating took place at Coney Island this week to some friends of mine from outside of America. As I described the hot dog eating ability of Joey Chestnutt and Koboyashi, I realized I kept mentioning the name of the sponsor behind the competition: Nathan's Hot Dogs.
Now Nathan's are hardly the only hot dog franchise in America. In fact, there only in 27 states. But the enormous and unlikely popularity of the July 4th hot dog eating contest has made the Nathan's brand synonymous with the much-loved summer barbeque treat.
CNBC's sports business journalist Darren Rovell explored the popularity of Nathan's in a recent story. It's astonishing just how visible the brand has become on the back of the contest.
"We safely say that the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest does hundreds of millions of consumer impressions in a 24-hour period," said Rich Shea, president of Major League Eating, who, along with his brother George, has been running the Nathan's publicity associated with this event since 1997.
"I've done an interview for press in every large country," Shea said. "I've been on Al Jazeera. I even did an interview with a journalist who is in Transylvania (a historic region in Romania)."
As Rovell rightly points out, businesses spend exorbitant sums on purchasing the naming rights of stadiums. An investment the Nathan's made in 1997 has turned them into the country's, and maybe the world's, best-known hot dog franchise. It's the kind of publicity money can't buy.