June 27, 2014
By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
Baseball might be America’s pastime, but on the Fourth of July, only one sport takes center stage: the annual Independence Day Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. This year marks the event’s 99th competition, all of which have been held at the original Nathan’s Famous restaurant on Coney Island in New York.
For all of its entertainment, the Hot Dog Eating Contest also is big business. Approximately 40,000 spectators attend the event annually. Nearly 2 million more watch live on ESPN, which has a contract to televise the competition through 2017. Seven-time defending champion Joey Chestnut counts Pepto-Bismol as a sponsor. As for the record 69 hot dogs Chestnut ate in 10 minutes during last year’s contest, those would retail for $203 at the flagship restaurant on Coney Island.
Not surprisingly, the Hot Dog Eating Contest is the centerpiece of Nathan’s annual marketing efforts. A publicly traded company, Nathan’s sold more than 430 million hot dogs during the 2013 fiscal year, and the company has approximately 50,000 locations across the U.S.