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by Kevin Coupe
Watching the Super Bowl last night, with all the accompanying hoopla, we found ourselves wondering whether supermarkets -- desperate as they are to find a competitive edge and a differentiating advantage -- are doing enough to embrace and exploit events like these.

We use as our point of reference some of the programming we watched last week on the Food Network, much of which was devoted to the upcoming game. From travelogues that took the network’s correspondents to Tampa Bay and Oakland to get a sense of their regional cuisines, to a series of terrific tailgating shows hosted by Emeril Lagasse, the network did a terrific job of stimulating a viewer’s imagination when it came to food to eat during the big game.

During one memorable show, Emeril hosted a nighttime party during freezing weather in the parking lot of Giants Stadium in New Jersey, turning the time honored tradition of tailgating into a culinary extravaganza. (In our mind, Emeril can do no wrong -- but even we were amazed at how inspired this particular show was.)

There’s no question that supermarkets do a good job of marketing and merchandising around the event, selling beer and soft drinks and deli platters. But at least looking at the ads and promotions that came our way, we saw a significant lack of imagination.

In these days of heightened competition coming from all angles, can mainstream supermarkets afford to make that mistake?

There were no tailgating parties in supermarket parking lots, no events that expanded the notion of what people could buy and eat on Super Bowl Sunday.

Our personal experience tells us that events like the Super Bowl are a great opportunity to build community and loyalty. We run an annual Super Bowl Pancake Breakfast at our daughter’s elementary school, and serve pancakes and sausages to about 400 people in just a few hours. But more important is the fact that this event has become a touchstone for our community.

While we are a non-profit, and that’s different from being a retail operation, we think that events like these are exactly the kinds of measures that more stores ought to be sponsoring and employing…stimulating imagination, and maybe even sales.
KC's View: