Have you ever watched a March Madness game and thought that the court design looked good enough to eat? Are you one of those people who think everything is better with a side order of bacon? Are you a sucker for clever marketing gimmicks?
If you answered, “Yes,” “Yes,” and “Yes,” then you’re going to love Hormel’s new Hardcourt Smoked Bacon, which is smoked over maple wood trimmings salvaged from the production of this year’s Final Four courts by Connor Sports.
But if you’re already reaching for your jacket and heading to the supermarket, hold on — this product is not available for retail sale. Instead, Hormel is raffling off 68 prize packages. Each of the 68 winners will receive:
- A pack of the bacon, as shown above. (Note that it is packaged in a “stack pack,” rather than the more common “shingle pack.” I wrote about those packaging formats for Bloomberg Businessweek back in 2016.)
- A small jar of “collectible maple wood chips” (which perhaps could double as toothpicks for you to use after enjoying all of the bacon):
- A certificate of authenticity:
That certificate is hard to read, so I’ve transcribed it for you:
This document confirms the legitimacy of these wood chips as genuine remnants from the process used to build the official 2023 March collegiate tournament court from Connor® Sports and certifies this pack as containing official hardcourt-smoked HORMEL® BLACK LABEL® Bacon. Is it strange that we can officially certify something for an organization we can’t even legally reference due to trademark? Yeah, kind of. Does that make it any less cool? No. Just enjoy your court wood and bacon.
That wording, which presumably refers to legal strictures preventing Hormel’s use of terms like “March Madness” and “Final Four” and “NCAA,” nicely captures the absurdist fun of this promotion. Hormel has also produced a video, which almost (but not quite) hits like a faux commercial from SNL:
Granted, I’m predisposed to like almost anything involving bacon, but I think this is all pretty hilarious. I do, however, have some questions, so on Monday morning I contacted Hormel and asked to interview someone connected to the project. They referred me to their PR agency, where a rep gave me the runaround before finally ghosting me yesterday (grrrr), so I wasn’t able to speak with any Hormel folks. If I’d been able to interview someone, here are some of the questions I would have asked:
- Did the idea for this promotion originate with Hormel or with Connor Sports? If Hormel, what was the brainstorming session like?
- Did it take much convincing to get Connor Sports on board with the idea? What about the NCAA?
- Overall, how many pounds of salvaged wood from Connor Sports was used by Hormel? Did Connor ship the wood directly to Hormel’s smokehouse?
- I assume the wood was set aside before it was lacquered, painted, and so on, right?
- How does making bacon with this wood differ, if at all, from making bacon with Hormel’s usual wood? Does does it take longer, does it burn differently, etc.?
- Is this bacon smoked only with hardcourt wood, or is it a mix of woods that includes hardcourt wood?
- How does this bacon’s flavor profile differ from other Hormal Black Label bacon? If we set up a blind taste test, would you be able to single out this bacon?
- The wording on the certificate of authenticity is very amusing. Tell me more about the trademark situation that Hormel had to deal with.
It’s kind of killing me that I didn’t get to do that interview. Dang.
Meanwhile: Broken MLB bats are often turned into chopsticks, but couldn’t they also be used to smoke bacon? What other sports byproducts could be used to create absurdist foodstuffs?
(Special thanks to John Cerone for letting me know about this one.)
Dear PR guy/gal … inquiring minds wanna know … so do your job! -C.
Too bad hockey sticks are all carbon fiber now and no longer wood; otherwise, that would be a natural fit!
There is a classic photo of Mike Bossy posing for Sports Illustrated with a stick on fire. If that photo shoot happened today, you know the company would raffle off a chance for fans to enjoy a s’more with a marshmallow toasted by that Mike Bossy stick on the spot!
Back when the Islanders were trying to start and grow an Islanders Networking Group (or whatever it was called), they found my law practice and pitched it to me.
I even received an e-mail from Mike Bossy. Thinking that there’s no way Bossy himself would actually be sending me that e-mail, I replied in French.
Two days later, I received a call on my cell phone from Canada. I wondered who would be calling me. I picked up, and all I hear is a long diatribe in French. Yup. Bossy himself actually behind that e-mail. We had an amazing conversation in both languages with lots of laughing about hockey.
(And I’m not even an Isles fan.)
(I went to one event/game, but they wanted $3k to join the networking PLUS two tickets per event/game. That was. . . more than I was willing to spend, even with the phone call from Bossy.)
Corporate brainstorming sessions are horrible. Just horrible. People making assumptions and crude jokes all to make their bonus regardless of the harm/consumption neccessary to earn it.
Brainstorming is fun. And I tend to enjoy crude jokes.
Considering I have a box of used bourbon casks for smoking, I already feel absurdist in my food creation outside.
But, hey, give me some old Boston parquet for smoking!
Didn’t Bill Walton use to smoke Boston parquet?
Why not just market the chips directly for people to use in their own smokers, grills and pizza ovens?
I was thinking the same thing as this.. “I assume the wood was set aside before it was lacquered, painted, and so on, right?” So I guess they’re getting the scraps of wood that wasn’t used on the actual floor. Also, lacquer is probably why broken baseball bats couldn’t be used for this.
I would want a pretty detailed description of the wood preparation process before I ate food smoked over a former basketball court. Lots of potentially toxic substances on the floor surface.
As to bats, maple has become increasingly common for baseball bats. So after thoroughly sanding off a bat’s chemically treated outer layer, I could see maple bats being a fun medium for smoking bacon.
“What other sports byproducts could be used to create absurdist foodstuffs?”
– After your team cuts down the nets following a March Madness victory, you could purchase that twine to tie off your next crown roast of lamb.
– So you caught a foul ball while watching your favorite team? Take the cork out of that ball and use it to make a stopper for a wine bottle.
I like the twine idea!
Real-world example of sporting equipment used to make food: A brewery near me purchased some of my curling club’s old stones and uses them every year to make steinbier. The heat the granite stones in a fire for several hours, then drop the stones into a tub of malt that’s then fermented to generate a smoky flavor and caramel notes.
I’m selling neckties made of hair yanked out of Final Four shower drains. Stay tuned for details!
Varnish bacon. Yummy!
Bacon and coffee in one post today? Count me in! Although I wouldn’t mind some over medium eggs and some hash browns as well.
I kinda remember somebody in charge at the Flyers or some related entity selling containers of ‘ice’ from the Spectrum.
Glad they didn’t get the idea of making some type of beverage or wooder ice from that stuff…drinking Schuylkill Punch (aka- Philly tap water) was risky enough for me.
Is this ridiculous? Yes
Did I enter the raffle? Yes
Is this the kind of story that makes me proud to subscribe to UniWatch? Yes
Aside: The Absurdist Foodstuffs would make a spectacular name for a college-scene band.