Time Out New York’s fifth annual Battle of the Burger event, held last Thursday at Pier 26 in Hudson River Park, had all the trappings of a live event put on by a digital organization in 2017. There was the gramworthy photos ops, from the miniature burgers on offer from the restaurants battling it out for the top title, to the open-air, water, sun and skyline background options. If the burgers weren’t enough to hold your interest, there was free beer from sponsor Budweiser. There was live music from two bands, a chance to cast your own vote for the readers’ choice award for best burger in the city, oversized versions of Jenga and Connect Four, regular-sized versions of cornhole and basketball hoop shot games.
But the Battle of the Burger event had something else, too. It was a natural extension of the territory covered by its magazine, of which dining reviews make up a sizable chunk of coverage, and it was one the magazine was able to promote before and after the event through a series of features that included a list of 40 burger spots that readers got to narrow down to 20 through a vote, culminating in a Time Out New York cover and feature article published the week of the event and bookended by a post-event wrap-up revealing the winners.
It’s part of what Time Out global editor Joel Meares calls a “360 degree program,” of “being part of the culture and creating events,” rather than merely documenting what goes on outside the magazine.
And it works. Time Out’s first Battle of the Burger was held in New York in 2013. In 2015 it expanded, from one session to two; ticket purchasers to this year’s event could choose between a 5:30–7:30 p.m. ET session and an 8:30–10:30 p.m. ET session. In 2016 the event expanded to Chicago, and this September it will make its debut in Los Angeles.
As an added bonus, those features, along with Time Out’s social accounts, newsletters and in-house promotion, are the primary methods used to market the sold-out events, according to chief revenue officer Justin Etheridge.
And in those leads up and promos, sponsor Budweiser, back for a second year, received subtle mentions. But at the event itself, the presence of sponsor Budweiser was woven throughout, extending past the mere distribution of beer in red and white aluminum bottles, the same colors used to label all the event’s components. A bar set up in the center of the pier offered attendees the option of getting their Bud on tap. Promotional posters framing the bar had text that read, “the original power couple,” alongside a picture of a burger and a beer. A large fishbowl contained free keychains with attached bottle openers, and a separate booth offered personalized koozies. The line for that booth rivaled the lines for the most popular burger booths.