Johnsonville introduces racing fans to a giant grill

The sausage brand will be serving a lot of brats at the Honda Indy Toronto as part of a cross-country event circuit.

Johnsonville has been courting Canadians at local barbecue events throughout the summer, but the sausage brand is taking it to another level this weekend with a massive grill for auto racing fans in Toronto.

“We have a number of smaller-scale sampling programs that go on throughout the country but the Big Taste Grill is that on steroids,” says Bob Fitzgerald, Johnsonville’s director of international business development.

Expect the smell of bratwurst to compete with the diesel fumes in one corner of Toronto’s Exhibition Place – a 100- by 80-foot spot in Thunder Alley, by Turn 11 on the 2.8-kilometre race track – as the brand brings its 40-square-foot grill north of the border for the Honda Indy Toronto.

It’s part of an effort to court Canadians that began with a new campaign last spring. The brand has followed up throughout the summer with special regional recipe videos (Cowtown Stuffed Griddle Cakes, created for the Calgary Stampede; Poutine La Glorieuse, for Saint-Jean Baptiste in Quebec) and by beginning a two-year plan to travel the country for local events. The strategy is to go anywhere that it will find “regular, middle-of-the-road mom and pops that love to grill out,” Fitzgerald says.

At the Honda Indy Toronto, Johnsonville will get some help from Ayr, Ont. native and NASCAR driver Adam Martin and Make-A-Wish Canada volunteers. The brand is donating $1 from every sausage sale to the organization, with a minimum of $10,000 going to the charity. With a grill that cooks 750 brats at a time, that might not take very long.

Johnsonville is running radio ads leading up to the event on Sportsnet 590 The Fan, with creative by Cramer-Krasselt Milwaukee. The station will be doing two 60-second cut-ins per hour on Friday, talking to people from the brand, from Make-A-Wish, and to Adam Martin.

Matchstick is handling social, and is bringing in two barbecue influencers to have a go at the giant grill: Danielle “Diva Q” Dimovski and Jason King of The Backyard BBQ Show.

Glossy is on PR and Braque did the on-site signage and coupons the brand is distributing at the event. Fervent is handling event planning for Johnsonville’s work across the country over the next two years.