Cannes Lions

Preserve the Pit


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For 100 years, Kingsford has brought people together around food and fire as the premier brand in barbecue and grilling.

Kingsford realized it had the opportunity and responsibility to honor the Black community’s contributions to the culture, tastes, and traditions of barbecue in America. While making a commitment to helping future generations of Black pitmasters.

In 2021, Kingsford launched Preserve the Pit, an immersive fellowship and grant program for Black barbecue enthusiasts. But, even with the success of year one, with 1,500 applications, it was evident that continued support and exposure was still needed.

So, we doubled down, expanding the number of fellowships and placing the message on our most visible asset - the Kingsford bag.

Amplifying the message with an integrated marketing effort prior to Black History Month, a launch video, custom social content, robust earned media pulses, endorsements from Black influencers, and a paid media partnership with Complex.


Our creative idea focused on establishing long-term support to preserve the legacy of Black barbecue, while propelling its future.

We continued partnerships with a diverse group of barbecue authorities, including Dr. Howard Conyers, an expert on southern barbecue.

To reach the Black barbecue community and creative culinarians – a new, diverse and millennial, target for Kingsford that expect brands to take a stand. We partnered with artist-activist, BMike, who created the “Pass it On” bag inspired by the Black barbecue traditions passed down and hope for the future. Bags were sold at Walmart’s nationwide, with $1 from every sale invested into the fellowship.

The bag was also memorialized as a mural at Black-owned Payne's BBQ in Memphis and announced in a video with a poetic style heard in everything from preaching to hip-hop. Visuals mixed modern-day footage of Black pitmasters, BMike completing the mural and historical barbecue gatherings.


Preserve the Pit was established based on the insight, discovered through research and conversation, that the Black community shaped American barbecue and deserved recognition, but without a new generation at the pit, their stories, recipes, and techniques risked being forgotten.

Year one of the fellowship, while successful, proved to Kingsford that more support and awareness was needed to continue to preserve the Black barbecue in America and fuel its future.

To ensure we got it right, Kingsford engaged experts like Dr. Conyers and BMike to serve as consultants and the agency’s and brand’s internal DEI teams to evolve the fellowship in a meaningful way.

The special edition Preserve the Pit bag, "Pass it On” brought in a new hook and national retail partner in Walmart, putting 115,000 bags on store shelves across the country, and foster longevity and continue to fund Preserve the Pit.


The program launched January 31, 2022, with the video released across brand social channels, targeted media outreach and social posts by program mentors. Resulting coverage told the impact and importance of Preserve the Pit with headlines, from USA Today announcing year two of the program reading, “It was life changing for many of the fellows': Kingsford program nurtures Black pitmasters.”

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’s year two launch drove widespread awareness and earned media outreach resulted in more than 1.4 billion earned impressions that positively conveyed key messages, such as:

"The number one piece that came out of this program for us was exposure...Simmons also credits his participation in the program with helping close on an additional 56 acres for his family farm.”

– Ron Simmons, 2021 Fellow as told to USA Today Southern Kitchen

"Kingsford is stepping in and taking that place and helping funding and helping these dreams come true and strengthening the future of the African American pit master.” – Kevin Bludso, program mentor, as told to Mashed.

The “Pass it On” special edition bag of charcoal briquets is still on the shelves of every Walmart in the U.S.; as of March 28, 2022 it accounted for more than 10 percent of sales at the retailer for Kingsford in the previous week, and sales, which continue to increase weekly, will continue to fund Preserve the Pit for year three and beyond.

Most importantly, in 30 days, the Fellowship received more than 2,700 entries – more than double from the previous year – with six people awarded $15,000 and one-on-one mentoring sessions. 10 additional recipients received $5,000 grants used at the applicant’s discretion to continue fueling the culture and history of Black barbecue in America.

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