Jennifer Dahlgren, Brand Director At Ball Park, Talks Their New Summer Accessory - Exclusive Interview

Hot dogs on the grill are a summertime staple, but when you're adding toppings to your dog, what do you reach for — mustard or ketchup? Now, thanks to a brand-new summertime accessory from Ball Park, you don't have to choose. In fact, you can take your favorite hot dog condiments with you wherever you go. 

The new Hot Dog Helmet is a barbecue-ready cap with attached mustard and ketchup reservoirs, plus a one-of-a-kind pump system, so you can top your dogs on the go, as much as you like, and never have to worry about running out of the good stuff at an inopportune time. Right down to the very last bite, you can ensure your hot dog is fully covered.

The brand director for Ball Park, Jennifer Dahlgren, works hard to keep the Ball Park brand front of mind for consumers shopping for their summertime eats at their favorite grocery store. Mashed spoke with her to learn more about this new headgear offering — available only via an exclusive social media giveaway — as well as all things hot dogs.

How and why the Hot Dog Helmet came to be

What do you do as a brand director at Ball Park?

My team and I work day in and day out to make sure that Ball Park is focused on being an iconic, beloved hot dog brand. We want to give our fans a taste of summer any time they bite into a Ball Park frank. We work on advertising, brand design, and partnering with our retail partners to make sure that Ball Park franks are found anywhere you'd want to buy them. We also do new product development and look for ways for consumers to engage with the brand. That could be online or at the roller grill in a convenience store or [at] iconic venues like Detroit's Tiger Stadium, where we were born.

Tell me a little bit about the Ball Park Hot Dog Helmet. It's a really fun idea — what was the inspiration behind it?

We knew that consumers are very passionate about their condiment preferences in terms of hot dogs, and 92% of adults that eat hot dogs in the U.S. will use at least one topping. Most of them,  [around] 72%, will top their hot dogs with two or more [condiments], and that's from a poll that was done last year. We saw our role as having an opportunity to help people put whatever they want on their hot dog to make every bite as delicious as possible. 

The Hot Dog Helmet gives them the chance to perfectly dress and enjoy every bite of their frank to the fullest. It — coincidentally — is a unique, one-of-a-kind accessory, so they can have a fun way to kick off summertime.

Is it just designed to work with the mustard and the ketchup containers, or can you fill it with whatever you want, if you happen to prefer something other than that?

Yes. If you preferred mayonnaise or something else, you can put whatever you want in there, and you can pump it right out.

I understand that these are available via a giveaway. How is that working? What do people need to know about that?

We have a limited quantity available, and our fans can enter for a chance to win them — the helmets, as well as free Ball Park franks — by following us on Instagram and then commenting with a hot dog emoji and using #hotdoghelmet and #sweepstakes. That's on the Ball Park brand's Instagram account, and we'll be up until June 23, 2022.

When you say there's a limited number available, how many is that — hundreds or dozens?

150, I believe.

Is this something that you think that Ball Park would potentially bring back at some point? Or is it like, 'If you want this, you better get it this year'?

I can't make any promises. We'll always see based on demand. I know — so far — interest has been high, so I definitely encourage people to check it out and enter the sweepstakes. But if these are really popular, we may have to listen to our fans and bring them back.

Top tips from a hot dog expert

Since this is all about making topping your hot dog easier, what is your preferred topping for your hot dogs when you enjoy a Ball Park frank?

Most of the time, I like to keep it simple and let the meat shine. At home, I'll grill our Angus Beef Franks and top them with ketchup, mustard, and celery salt. But I do live in Chicago, and ketchup is a contrarian condiment here, so I don't broadcast that super frequently around here. I grew up a few hours from here, so I'll blame my preferences on that.

I was looking at the Ball Park website and all of the cool, different hot dog topping ideas and recipes. There are some pretty interesting ones. What would you say are some of the more unique or interesting topping options you've seen in your line of work?

One of the products that we introduced last year is really interesting. It's a Ball Park fully-loaded nacho cheese frank. The idea there was to bring together two of America's favorite stadium flavors into one mouthwatering bite. It means you get a savory, indulgent frank that's made with real cheddar cheese and a unique seasoning blend that gives you ... [a] little bit of jalapeno, onion, garlic, paprika, and lime to bring that stadium flavor of nachos into your frank.

Are those available all year round everywhere that Ball Park franks are sold, or are they more of a specialty item?

They're available nationwide in retailers year-round.

For people grilling and cooking at home — no matter what they're topping their hot dog with, or what kind of Ball Park frank they're making — do you have any tips for them?

I do. First is to start with a clean grill, since food sticks to a dirty one. I would make sure your grates are glistening. If they're still stuck, brush on a little bit of olive oil.

I recommend both charcoal and gas grills, whichever people have. Both make a great hot dog. Either way, they'll want to preheat it before putting on their favorite Ball Park franks and getting it up to about 500 degrees. If they're using a charcoal grill, then they'd want to make sure that the charcoal has a thin coat of ash on it, so the hot temperatures will give them a nice sear and crisp grill marks, which are a signature of summer.

They can cook them around the edges of the grill or really char them up over the direct flame, depending on preferences and what people like. I like them extra-crispy, so I like them on the direct flame.

Is there anything else that Ball Park has coming up that people can look out for later in the summer or the early fall?

I would encourage folks to follow us on social media at @Ballparkbrand to stay up to date on the latest news from the brand.

To enter for a chance to win a hot dog helmet and free Ball Park franks, follow Ball Park on Instagram and comment with the hot dog emoji and use the hashtag #HotDogHelmet and #sweepstakes on the Ball Park brand Instagram giveaway announcement post until June 23, 2022. For more information, visit @Ballparkbrand on Instagram.

This interview was edited for clarity.