2022 Excellence in Social Media Engagement, Medium Newsroom winner

The Philadelphia Inquirer Italian Hoagie Bracket


About the Project

The Philadelphia Inquirer took a fun and unique approach to audience engagement in March by leveraging the bracket mania that consumes many online users annually during that month. But, we put a Philly spin on it. The Inquirer’s Italian Hoagie Bracket used a Philly staple to engage readers in an interactive format that also drew the attention of local businesses, their customers, foodies, and a wide range of less habitual Inquirer readers.

Our food team, interactive designers, digital editors, and audience professionals joined forces to compile a tournament-style bracket that pit 16 popular Philly hoagie spots against each other to see which sandwich was the city’s top choice.

This project was well suited for a robust, two-way social media strategy that allowed us to engage with audiences in formats that were familiar to natives of our flagship social platforms. For this project to be successful over time, we needed to find ways to continue interacting with readers as votes were being cast and tallies were being sorted out.

Social media became an important vehicle for this engagement and many of our efforts helped to make the bracket the talk of Philadelphia throughout the life of the project.

Instagram’s engagement tools allowed our social editors to take the Hoagie Bracket directly to users on that platform, not just in a promotional way, but also in a format that allowed them to get a taste of the voting experience. And in several standard feed posts, we created spaces for Philadelphians to come together for robust conversations and lively debates around their hoagie spot of choice or to pick apart the celebrity brackets we curated, including one from the city’s mayor and the sports world’s favorite mascot, Gritty.

Twitter became a place for local businesses named in the bracket to duke it out over why their hoagie deserved all the brotherly love and sisterly affection that voters had to offer.

And Twitter’s Spaces feature served as the venue for a live experience that featured our renowned food critic Craig LaBan who offered in-depth insight into the formation of the hoagie bracket and the history of the sandwiches featured.

Our social platforms became a place for users to come together and discuss something that they were so deeply passionate about — Philly’s other favorite sandwich. We are excited to submit our social media activities around The Inquirer’s hoagie bracket for consideration for this honor because the work embodied so much of what we strive to do regularly when it comes to social engagement: build social interactions with our followers that encourage a deeper connection with the brand and fosters trust and communication so that connection stays intact.

Judges Comments

This was so good. It created something people really wanted to share, took the approach of “bracketizing,” and made it excellent without being corny or gimmicky. It was very well thought-out and clearly strategically organized. The work also looked great – but was also extremely engaging and broke through. This entry is an excellent example of a local organization doing something joyful and personal for their community.