Joshua Tehee

Can Fresno create the ultimate Oreo? The Grizzlies’ marketing guru thinks so

Sam Hansen has what he thinks is the largest collection of Oreo cookies in the world. He has all but two of the cookie’s limited release flavors.
Sam Hansen has what he thinks is the largest collection of Oreo cookies in the world. He has all but two of the cookie’s limited release flavors.

Sam Hansen spent the day searching for Oreos.

He had intel that the new Firework Oreo, the one with Pop Rocks in the cream filling, was available at a local WinCo. It turned out to be a false alarm.

This is the kind of news that gets around in Hansen’s world; Oreos are kind of his thing.

The Firework Oreo was put out in limited release Tuesday, the same day the company announced its My Oreo Creation Contest. There’s a $500,000 prize for the person who creates next Oreo flavor. Submissions are open through Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #MyOreoCreation.

Both caught Hansen’s attention.

“I have to win that damn contest,” says Hansen, the marketing guru for the Fresno Grizzlies and a guy who is no stranger to building social media hype (see the team’s popular promo nights, which have been recognized as some of the best in minor league baseball). He’s looking for the city to rally behind him in a show of force.

I’ve always been a fan of culture. Oreos have a deep connection with American culture.

Sam Hansen

Hansen is uniquely qualified for the contest. He’s been remixing Oreo flavors, without the company’s prompting, since 2005, when he created an Oreo version of Ben and Jerry’s “Half Baked” ice cream. It had Brownie Batter and Cookie Dough Oreos triple stacked together. It’s hashtagged on Instagram as #oreoremix.

He also has what he thinks might be the largest collection of Oreos in the world, though he’s never sought official recognition.

Hansen seeks out the cookies. He buys them at grocery stores when he can, but also searches Google, eBay and Amazon for weirder, foreign releases (the Green Tea Oreo from Japan, for example).

And he always buys two packages.

One is for eating. The other is put in a dedicated Oreo freezer for safe keeping. It’s something he picked up from being a sneaker head. You always buy two pairs of shoes – “one to rock, one to stock,” Hansen says. Not surprisingly, the guy also has an impressive sneaker collection.

His treasure trove of Oreos includes dozens of flavors. There’s Red Velvet Oreo and Churros Oreo and the Chips Ahoy! Oreo crossover cookie. There’s watermelon and gingerbread and an assortment of birthday cake Oreos.

“I’ve always been a fan of culture,” Hansen says. “Oreos have a deep connection with American culture.”

More importantly, from a marketing and branding perspective, the company has transcended its market: There are cookies, and there there are Oreos.

“They’re as classic as you can get. And still as socially relevant as you can get,” he says.

Hansen tried to convince the Fresno Grizzlies to host an Oreo promo night for the cookie’s 100-year anniversary in 2012. The guys in charge at the time didn’t share his vision and Hansen wasn’t in a position back then to push the point.

Now things are different.

I have to win that damn contest.

Sam Hansen

Hansen is the marketing director for the team and has the track record to back up his crazy ideas. He came up with that pulled pork sandwich with Coca Cola and Pop Rocks sauce that the Grizzlies did last year and helped rebrand the team as the Tacos. He also created a Tupac-themed cafe in Fresno a year before Nas did it in New York.

Winning the contest isn’t about putting $500,000 in his pocket. What he’s really after is an in with Nabisco, a way to get that Oreo promo night to happen. There would be Oreo-themed jerseys, obviously, and tasting stations throughout the park, he says.

And his effort to win starts with this Oreo creation; a Vanilla PB&J Triple Stack, made with Golden and Peanut Butter Oreos, paired with Strawberry Cream Oreos he ordered from Thailand.

“Let’s do what we can to win this for Fresno,” he says.

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee