People love food. From stunt burgers and cheese pulls to over-the-top Bloody Mary’s with shrimp cocktail and onion rings, food media has found a comfy home on our favourite social media networks. Few media categories have more enthusiastic and far-reaching audiences online than food media. Some of the world’s best-loved restaurateurs, chefs, food critics, and food media personalities have dug out sizable markets for themselves on Instagram, Facebook, and more.
It’s not surprising that food and beverage brands flock to Instagram’s biggest food stars with large budgets and uncertain expectations. The hope is that – by leveraging online food personalities’ massive following – brands like Tapatio and Cuisinart can drive sales and build clout with new audiences.
Say what you will about chef Matty Matheson, but he’s an absolute content machine. It’s no wonder why Vice was quick to partner with him. With a massive following on Instagram, a background as a successful restaurant owner and chef in Toronto, and a deep connection to Canada’s punk and hard-core music scene, Matheson garners attention from a global audience of food and alternative media fanatics. Partnering with Matheson allows brands to build awareness among a new and growing audience. It helps them drive sales, accumulate followers on YouTube, and boost the overall value of their brand.
Though Andrew Rea does have funny moments on his cooking series Binging with Babish, he doesn’t rely on humour in the same way that Matheson does. Rather, his how-to YouTube cooking channel – which currently has 5.3 million subscribers – features visually stunning and immaculately edited videos of Rea making a variety of dishes from film and TV. Because Rea’s content appeals to food fanatics and fans of hi-fi video editing/ web design alike, his channel features sponsored content posts from an interesting mix of advertisers. In 2018, the popular food prep delivery service Blue Apron partnered with Rea to have their packaging, services, and meal prep process featured in one of his videos. They are repeat partners on Rea’s channel and have leveraged his audience to great effect. This is one of the most synergistic examples of influencer marketing that immediately comes to mind.
The irony of this partnership is whimsical and hilarious. For those who don’t know, Sean Evans was a relatively unknown figure in the world of food media until a few years ago, when First We Feast – a subsidiary of COMPLEX – made him the host of Hot Ones. Hot Ones is a hilarious Internet talk show in which famous guests answer questions while consuming a series of 10 increasingly spicy chicken wings. In the past, the brand, Hot Ones, earned sponsorships from a precarious ensemble of vape pens, men’s lifestyle publications, and clothing brands. They really nailed it by ingeniously and hilariously partnering with Tums. The tone of the partnership seems to be “when eating 10 incredibly hot chicken wings with J Cole inevitably causes calamity in your stomach, reach for Tums.” This influencer marketing campaign highlights how brands can get creative when they focus on the right influencers in the right niche.
Food media has never been more popular than it currently is, and the more of it that people consume, the more potential there is for fruitful partnerships between brands and influencers. But keep in mind that these collaborations are only the tip of the iceberg. Between Gordon Ramsey partnering with Amazon and Action Bronson working with Squarespace, as well as everything in between, culinary influencers can help food and beverage brands make a bigger statement on the web.