Cannes Lions

Preserve the Pit



1 Bronze Cannes Lions
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For 100 years, Kingsford has been?bringing people together?around food and fire?as?the?premier brand in barbecue and outdoor grilling.?As conversations about racial injustice grew last summer, the brand realized it had the opportunity and responsibility to honor the Black community’s contributions to the culture, tastes, and?traditions of?barbecue in America.?At the same time, the brand committed to helping future generations of Black pitmasters blaze their own trail.

To achieve those objectives, the PR agency created Preserve the Pit, a movement anchored by a fellowship program awarding aspiring barbecue professionals with one-on-one mentorship by industry leaders and a monetary business grant. Amplified by an integrated marketing effort prior to Black History Month, widespread awareness was raised via a launch video, custom social content, robust earned media pulses, endorsements from Black influencers, and paid media partnerships with VOX and Complex.


Barbecue today originated out of necessity by enslaved Africans, yet this story has been forgotten or ignored. Our creative idea focused on the need to preserve this legacy while propelling its future with a new generation.

To authentically bring Preserve the Pit to life, we partnered with a diverse group of barbecue authorities, including Dr. Howard Conyers, an expert on southern barbecue. They inspired our work and provided credibility for the Black community.

To reach the Black barbecue community while capturing the attention of future grillers and multicultural millennials – a new target for Kingsford that expects brands to take a stand – we anchored the effort with a video that pushed beyond “food porn” to popular culture with a poetic style heard in everything from preaching to hip-hop. Visuals mixed modern-day footage of Black pitmasters in Detroit and New Orleans with historical images from barbecue gatherings.


Through conversations and research, we identified a clear problem the brand could work to solve and the important story we needed to tell.

Insight: The Black community shaped American barbecue and deserved recognition, and without a new generation at the pit, their stories, recipes, and techniques risked being forgotten.

Solution: Kingsford committed to preserving the history of Black barbecue in America and investing in its future by supporting Black pitmasters.

To ensure we got it right, Kingsford engaged experts like Dr. Conyers to serve as consultants; media partners with strong multicultural strategy teams; and the agency’s and brand’s internal DEI teams.

Preserve the Pit reached and resonated with the Black barbecue community and multicultural millennials through an attention-getting video, custom social content, influential endorsements, media partnerships, and earned media coverage.


The program launched January 25, 2020, with the video released across brand social channels and a CNN exclusive that announced: “Black Americans helped make barbecue a cultural phenomenon. Charcoal company Kingsford is helping to preserve that legacy.”

The video was integral to carrying the story through to all other program elements, including the call for entries to the Preserve the Pit fellowships. An integrated marketing campaign leveraged earned media, influencers, social media, and paid media to reach the brand’s target audiences.

The campaign was built to be repeated annually to continue to support and amplify the voices, stories, and businesses of Black pitmasters and Black barbecue enthusiasts for years to come.


Preserve the Pit received widespread attention with more than 1.5 billion earned impressions that positively conveyed key messages, such as:

“Kingsford Launches a Groundbreaking Program for Aspiring Black Barbecue Pitmasters.” – Forbes

“Black Americans helped make barbecue a cultural phenomenon. Charcoal company Kingsford is helping to preserve that legacy.” – CNN

“Kingsford Charcoal Launches "Preserve the Pit" Fellowship to Mentor Aspiring Black Pitmasters.” – Southern Living

“Kingsford Celebrates the Legacy of Black BBQ with New Fellowship.” – Black Enterprise

“This is fantastic from Kingsford…a MUST-WATCH for everybody, a MUST-APPLY for aspiring Black barbecue professionals.” – Cindy Gallup

Other metrics included:

203% increase in media conversation of Kingsford*

24% increase in media conversation of Black barbecue*

62% increase in social mentions of Black barbecue*

73,273 video views

In just 30 days, the Fellowship received 1,051 entries with three people awarded $16,720 and one-on-one mentoring sessions. Due to the high volume of inspiring applicants, Kingsford expanded the program and selected 10 recipients to receive a $7,500 grant used at the applicant’s discretion to continue fueling the culture and history of Black barbecue in America.

*Compared to the same time frame during the previous year.

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