Lessons on Sponsorship Agreements from an Unusual Place

Some have called Joey Chestnut an American hero” for his historic achievements. By some,” I mean the Major League Eating organization. And by historic achievements,” I mean eating 76 hot dogs and buns in ten minutes in 2021. Despite bestowing an honorific on Chestnut that is usually reserved for war veterans (and maybe lawyers recognized by Chambers), MLE has decided to bar Chestnut from competing in Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest this Fourth of July.

MLE’s beef with Chestnut stems from Chestnut’s reported sponsorship deal with Impossible Foods, a company that makes plant-based hot dogs. An MLE spokesperson said that Chestnut’s deal would be like Michael Jordan telling Nike that he was going to represent Adidas, too. Impossible Foods responded by saying they support Chestnut in any contest he chooses” and that meat eaters shouldn’t have to be exclusive to just one wiener.”

Should a meat eater be exclusive to just one wiener? If you’re just an amateur eater, you can probably eat whatever hot dog you want. But if you’re a professional eater, the analysis may change. MLE claims they have worked with Chestnut for years under the same basic hot dog exclusivity provisions.” Chestnut, however, said he doesn’t have a contract with MLE or Nathan’s, and they are looking to change the rules from past years as it related to other partners I can work with.”

Although we work on sponsorship agreements across a broad range of industries and events, we’ve not worked in the man-eat-dog world of competitive eating, so we don’t know what’s standard here. In most sponsorship agreements, though, it’s common to see an exclusivity clause that prevents a person from endorsing competing products (and how that’s defined can be highly-negotiated). In some cases, these agreements may also prevent a person from using a competing product in public.

If this post caught your attention because you’re looking to achieve fame for your company by partnering with a celebrity, you should probably work with a legal professional to help make sure you have the exclusivity rights you need for a successful campaign. But if this post caught your attention because you’re looking to achieve personal fame by eating massive quantities of food in a short amount of time, you should probably work with a medical professional to help make sure that’s really a good idea.