Arby’s Meat Sweats Becomes “Social Media Sensation”

It’s not everyday you get the chance to disrupt culture with something that upsets the world’s ardent vegan population (sorry guys). This December Manifesto worked with Arby’s to concept a disruptive year-end earned media stunt that would garner the “oh no they didn’t” cultural moment that’s kept Arby’s in the headlines. The challenge: remind Americans— “We Have The Meats” and that it’s not just roast beef, but chicken, pork, brisket and more. Despite offering one of the most innovative meat menus of any QSR, for those who haven’t been to an Arby’s lately, they’re still considered the roast beef guys.

To answer this challenge, Manifesto delivered #MeatSweats. Literal head to toe custom apparel featuring Arby’s signature meats in a photorealistic, audaciously loud sweatshirt and matching sweatpants delivered to the nation’s most publicly passionate carnivores just in time for Christmas.

The hook? Arby’s is rewarding loyal carnivores with their very own pair of Meat Sweats. But there’s a catch: they can’t be bought. They have to be earned. From fans who’d tackled Arby’s Meat Mountain (an almost impossibly large sandwich featuring all their signature meats) to smoking meat for 24 hours straight and beyond, carnivores who earned Arby’s respect for their love of meat were the unsuspecting target of our surprise & delight campaign.


In less than six weeks we concepted, designed and created these custom gems of protein punnery. And in true Arby’s fashion, Each pair of Meat Sweats came with tongue-in cheek features like “bacon-patterned warming pockets, a venting hood for maximum temperature control and expandable waistline technology for post-meal comfort.”

Celebrating the greatest Meat Feats of 2017, we launched a give back program to loyal carnivores who highlighted their love of meat on social media — rewarding them with a beautifully-packaged pair of their very own Meat Sweats. Each pair of sweats was wrapped in bacon-patterned tissue paper, sealed with a 100% Meat Sweat Certification sticker and wrapped in a bright red poly bag just in time for Christmas. Coupled with the product, we assembled a media kit of hilariously styled photos featuring an every man’s man carnivore in his head to toe Meat Sweats. And it went viral.

Working in tandem with Arby’s PR agency, the plan called for seeding to social media influencers who would help create the cultural tipping point needed to generate carnivorous envy on a societal scale. ESPN commentator and former NFL player Mike Golic, Jr. launched a tweet that got the ball rolling and had the press guessing if he was the secret spokesperson.


A slew of other tweets and mentions from other influencers followed. According to Promo Magazine — within days, Meat Sweats were an “instant internet sensation.” Covered by Fox & Friends with an on-air appearance by one of the anchors, slews of sassy articles from Delish, Food & Wine, Golf Digest, HypeBeast, Teen Vogue, Eater, Yahoo and more, Meat Sweats took the internet by storm. The fever pitch reached new heights when Seth Meyers gave Arby’s Meat Sweats a plug on Late Night. And then there’s the pro wrestler who laid out his beloved pair of Meat Sweats along with some flashy bling bling on Twitter. And a giant shout out from YouTube star Casey Niestat with 1.6M Twitter followers. And scores of recipients who proudly donned their sweats on social holding up the hashtag card #MeatSweats. Yeah, it got real. And the results are still coming in.

Amidst some of the coldest temperatures our nation has seen, thanks to Arby’s, carnivores are staying cozy in their very own pair of Meat Sweats. But here are the learnings from this disruptive program:

  1. Zig When They Zag | In a world where McDonald’s, KFC and others are launching product and apparel at breakneck speed, we made Meat Sweats something that can’t be bought, but had to be earned. Thus, tightening supply while creating demand.
  2. 100% Authentic | An idea that was totally on-brand and ready to be eaten up by the loyal Arby’s audience. Borderline offensive to some. But that’s the point, isn’t it?
  3. Speed & Nimbleness | We used speed to our advantage to launch a rolling thunder concept to reality campaign in under six weeks. From dreaming it up, to finding a fantastic vendor partner who could help create them — to a real-time influencer strategy.
  4. Adaptation | Instead of launching a formal promotion with rules and regulations, we unleashed an authentic give-back campaign that actually led to a spike in sales of Arby’s biggest sandwiches during the campaign window — and rich engagement for consumers hoping to snag a pair of Meat Sweats on their own.
  5. Integrated-Agency and Brand Collaboration | While Manifesto was designated as the lead agency, Arby’s unleashed Edelman, their PR firm who developed a critical influencer outreach strategy and implementation that created the cultural tipping point Arby’s needed. The brand’s Partnership and Social Teams also worked overtime, monitoring, collecting end engaging with worthy recipients so our team could get a package in their hands within days.
  6. Robust Influencer Strategy | Meat lovers come from all walks of life — from food bloggers living in their mom’s basement to high-profile professional athletes. Looking at every angle from apparel to food & wine, pop-culture and beyond, the influencer strategy almost guaranteed pick-up because every influencer could add their own spin on how to enjoy Meat Sweats.
  7. Surprise & Delight | Using “Meat Feats of 2017” as our reason to pay back loyal carnivores, we leveraged the power of surprise and delight and adapted the plan daily and weekly — in real time. When a new influencer showed interest, we got a pair in their hands — thus fueling the campaign and creating a real-time feedback loop between the brand and consumers.

Today’s earned media environment is pumped and primed for brands activating on an instinct. It doesn’t take millions to create cultural disruption and rally humans around your brand. But it does take intention, adaptation—and a resonant idea that’s authentically on-brand.

Tim Dyer is Chief Storyteller and Managing Partner of Manifesto. Manifesto is a brand declaration agency that rallies humans around the heart and soul of the world’s most ambitious brands. Manifesto has offices in Portland, OR and Milwaukee, WI.