Kentucky Tourism Curates a West Kentucky BBQ Belt Collection

By T.L. Stanley 

Praise the lord and pass the collards!

Indie ad agency Coomer, for client Kentucky Tourism, has curated 40-plus restaurants from 18 small towns into a collective called the West Kentucky BBQ Belt, inspired by the state’s Bible Belt roots.

West Kentucky BBQ Belt billboard.

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At the heart of the program is a promotional campaign “dedicated to spreading the gospel of West Kentucky BBQ,” and preserving the region’s unique twist on the dish, according to the agency.

Though better known for horses, bourbon and bluegrass, Kentucky was once deemed “the BBQ capital of the world,” per the Washington Post. These days it’s considered more of a fringe participant.

But the effort from Coomer aims to elevate local pit masters who are “fired up to reclaim” their status in the American smoked meat milieu and create a new tourist destination comprising speck-on-the-map towns like Russellville, Henderson and Paducah.

The small businesses are “steeped in tradition and guarded by families and friends for generations,” Abby Dixon, said executive director of the Henderson Tourist Commission in a statement. “The Carolinas, Memphis, KC, Texas—we love their sauces. But we ain’t them and they ain’t us.”

As part of the outreach, there are social videos, digital ads and billboards, the latter placed in barbecue hotbeds like Nashville, Memphis, St. Louis and Kansas City. Influencer partners are creating content to bolster the campaign, with a focus on the upcoming National BBQ Day on May 16.

Coomer, based in Lexington, has been down this road before, literally. The agency has become a specialist in grouping disparate Kentucky cities under common banners to draw in visitors.

Kentucky After Dark” unified dozens of far-flung destinations with a supernatural theme, while “Joy Ride” linked points of interest around the state, encouraging people to shift into the slow lane and drive the back roads.

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