BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Reynolds Metals, Rubber Maid, Louis Kemp and Andrew Jergens are some of the brand marketers already signed up for the next "Ask Cooking Light Mobile Magazine Tour," scheduled to depart May 15 to 150 supermarkets in 100 cities over six months.
"Although the route will be a little different in this, our third year, we're expecting a dozen sponsors and an even stronger program in every way," said Jeffrey C. Ward, publisher for Cooking Light magazine, which is published by Southern Progress Corp. here.
Mark Dodge, tour director for Ask Cooking Light, reported that many sponsors are not only renewing their sponsorship, but increasing the size of their commitments. For example, Reynolds Metals will be taking two kiosks this year.
In addition, most of last year's retailers, with contractual agreements still in the works, will participate this year as well, said Dodge. Among them were Albertson's, Bruno's, Harris Teeter, Tops, Shaw's and Publix.
The itinerary of this year's Cooking Light 65-foot tractor-trailer truck will differ slightly from the past. Dodge said the truck will drive 27,000 miles on a route that better suits the sponsors, the consumers and the ACL staff. "This year, the truck will concentrate its time in suburbs of major metro areas where the demographics fit the profile of the Cooking Light reader," said Dodge.
Ward added that this new route makes sense for everyone involved. "Clustering around major markets provides more opportunities for promotion, PR and media pick-up, and it's where the retail volume is."
Like last year, the Ask Cooking Light truck will be filled with a dozen 8-foot by 12-foot kiosks from its sponsors, showing videos and distributing coupons, samples, and recipe books. Along with recipes from sponsors, Cooking Light provides 600 different recipe cards from its editorial pages (and limits consumers to 50 each) and sends each visitor away with a bag full of samples and coupons.
"Retailers like the program because our recipe cards get consumers to shop more aisles of the store," said Ward. Plus, sponsors can use this opportunity to extend their reach by setting up in-store displays and sampling to coincide with the tour.
According to Ask Cooking Light's own research, the tour itself builds store traffic. "Our research found that the exhibit prompts people to go shopping," Ward said.
Last year, ACL conducted on-site research that found 94% of the visitors said they have used or plan to use the coupons they receive in the truck. In addition, 51% of consumers would plan
their shopping trip around the time and location of the ACL mobile unit, and 60% of consumers surveyed visited the stores immediately after going through the truck.
An estimated 200,000 people visit the ACL truck and Ward noted that these are pre-screened consumers, ones who already have an interest in lighter, healthier cooking. He estimated that the gross number of advertising impressions is well over 100 million.
In-store displays are a big part of the Ask Cooking Light Tour package. ACL provides 2-foot by 3-foot posters for hanging in store windows for two weeks before the event, and stores agree to include tour dates in their in-store flyers and newspaper ads. Cooking Light also runs a full-page ad announcing the tour in the magazine.
During the week of the event, each store puts up a pallet or side stand in the front of the store with all of the products included on the truck, along with a Cooking Light magazine display.
"The in-store displays are worth more than what the sponsors pay to be a part of the program," said Ward. "Many stores have waiting lists for in-aisle displays and we can display a new product as part of our program."
The tour also has the potential to force distribution of product. "We had an instance where a sponsor's brand was not carried by the store," he said, "and because of our tour, they stocked it."
Ward said the program aims to build newsstand sales and consumer awareness of the magazine. "This is not a profit-driven promotion. In fact, it costs us a lot of money. We do benefit, though, from the relationships we build with our advertisers and with retailers." The truck also stops at each sponsor's corporate headquarters along the way.