If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to travel and cook on the competitive BBQ circuit? Well then this interview with Chiles Cridlin of Wolf’s Revenge BBQ is for you.
In today’s episode, Chiles shares his experience on what it takes to win a BBQ competition, the equipment he uses to cook, and his advice for attracting sponsors for your BBQ team that can help pay for products like wood or rub that you may already use or entry fee’s to different competitive events that can get costly over time. Hit play on the button above to listen to the full interview or read on for a full summary of the show.
What You’ll Learn
How Chiles Got More Serious About BBQ
Chiles got more serious about cooking BBQ in part to prove someone wrong. An IT professional by day, Chiles wanted to rent some professional grade cooking equipment from a local caterer for a casual gathering. The caterer instead suggested he should come and cook at the event since it would be too difficult of a task for Chiles to pull-off himself.
After that Chiles decided that he was going to take a more serious approach to cooking BBQ. Chiles started researching the topic of cooking barbecue, testing his own recipes, and eventually purchased his own BBQ trailer and equipment in order to participate in Kansas City BBQ contests.
Winning BBQ Competitions
Back in 2008 Wolf’s Revenge BBQ started their journey small, the way most great pitmasters start out. In the early days, barbecue would be made in pop-up tents and served from tables at different events. Smokers would be hauled around in the back of SUVs or the occasional camper to transport the equipment from event to event. Still, Chiles had always envisioned a more presence for Wolf’s Revenge BBQ.
In 2013, Chiles upgraded and made the leap to a BBQ trailer from Custom Concessions. Since acquiring the trailer they’ve logged well over 20,000 miles traveling to various competitions and even starting picking up lucrative catering events along the way.
As you’ll learn in the interview, if you are a competitive BBQ team that’s wants to attract sponsors, you’ll need to focus on more than just the quality of your brisket. That means replacing that chef’s hat with a marketing cap if you want to attract sponsors.
Although having great tasting BBQ and a track record of awards is certainly helpful when attracting sponsors it’s not the most important factor. Sponsors that could include anyone from a certain brand of spices, sauce, rubs, BBQ smoker builders care largely about how much exposure you can provide their brand. That means you’ll need to focus on building up an audience or followers that will pay attention and trust the recommendations you make.
One of the key indicators that sponsors will look at before investing in your business or team is how large and engaged your social media following is. Chiles recommends focusing on building a presence and following across the big three social media websites: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
As Chiles points out in the interview, there are a lot of fresh-faced teams on the professional BBQ circuit that have come in and been able to come in and attract sponsors quickly due to their social media following that grows quickly. In the past, you might need to compete on the circuit for years and rack up a considerable amount of trophies and achievements in order to get on the radar of a sponsor. Fast forward to today and you could start getting some low-level sponsorships in under a year if you understand how to promote yourself using new media.
Tips for Attracting Sponsors
Hoping to attract sponsors for your team? Here are some tips that Chiles recommends for acquiring sponsors.
- Reach out to companies whose products you actually use. If you always use a specific blend of rub or a brand of coal to cook, reach out to those companies first. Let them know that you use their product regularly and demonstrate yourself using it on social media. Make sure to reference the name of the brand’s social media handle within these posts so that the brand is alerted that you’re referencing them. This simple action can be a great way to get on the radar of a big brand and give you the opportunity to start a conversation.
- Start small with sponsorships. If you’re just starting out the odds of you being sponsored by McCormick’s is pretty low. Instead try to reach out to an up-and-coming company within the BBQ space to sponsor something. Then as you grow your BBQ business, you can also help your initial sponsors grow. Also, don’t ask for something big from a sponsor initially like having all of your competition fees paid for. Instead, start out by asking for some low cost free product samples. This is an easier “yes” for businesses and opens the door to develop a stronger relationship in the future.
- Be specific with what you’re offering. At the end of the day, sponsors want to get their products in front of BBQ enthusiasts that might eventually buy their product. When you pitch a potential sponsor, be specific in how you will raise awareness for their product to their ideal customer. Here are a few simple ways you could add value: 1.) Display the sponsors banner at all BBQ events. 2.) Wear a t-shirt of the sponsor at all events. 3.) Publish 30 posts over the course of a year on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram that are about the brand with links to their website. 4.) Put the sponsors logo permanently on your concession trailer.
The more specific and creative you can get can get to prove your value to advertisers, the better the chances are you’ll attract more of these overtime. Focus on growing your audience on social media in addition to building your name on the competition circuit to position yourself as an attractive person to sponsor.
Mentioned in the Podcast
Wolf’s Revenge BBQ – Check out the official Facebook page of Wolf’s Revenge BBQ here. This is a great place to keep up to date with all of the competitions that the team is cooking at across the country.
Kansas City Barbeque Society – This is the organization that judges many of the BBQ events that Wolf’s Revenge BBQ participates in. Visit the website to learn more about upcoming KCBS events and classes.