Industry News | December 16, 2009

Restaurants Go Bowling With College Football

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With the schedule finalized for college football’s upcoming bowl season, two restaurant chains are preparing to take advantage of the marketing share a bowl sponsorship offers for the first time.

Restaurant sponsors for this year’s bowl season include two newcomers: Beef ‘O’ Brady’s and Little Caesars Pizza. The two join Outback Steakhouse (Outback Bowl), Chick-fil-A (Chick-fil-A Bowl), and Papa John’s (PapaJohns.com Bowl) as restaurant chains with bowl-game title sponsorships.

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s signed a two-year agreement for the title sponsorship of what was formerly the St. Petersburg Bowl. The casual-dining pub chain, which is based in St. Petersburg, Florida, is promoting the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl with a week of festivities leading up to the December 19 game.

“With the sports tie-in through ESPN [and it being] in our hometown with over 55 locations, it was a perfect partnership,” says Beef ‘O’ Brady's president Nick Vojnovic. Vojnovic says the opportunity to sponsor the game came about in late September, and became available because of the down economy.

The difference between Beef ‘O’ Brady’s and other restaurant sponsors of bowl games, however, is national marketing clout. According to a spokesperson for Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, the chain invested the majority of its marketing budget into the sponsorship.

“The media exposure return is many times our investment,” Vojnovic says. “We are excited to take part in a nationally televised sporting event that will cut through all the commercial clutter.”

“[We’re] definitely a little nervous, [but] our franchise partner boards gave us the green light to move forward and all of our stores are very excited about hosting bowl watch parties at their stores,” he says.

The Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, which pits Big East representative Rutgers against Conference USA’s University of Central Florida and is played in St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field, will televise nationally on ESPN at 8 p.m. on December 19.

Little Caesars is now the title sponsor for what was formerly the Motor City Bowl. The Little Caesars Bowl pits Ohio University of the Mid American Conference against Marshall of Conference USA, and will be played in Detroit’s Ford Field on December 26 at 1 p.m., on ESPN.

“I’m a life-long sports fan,” said Michael Ilitch, co-founder and chairman of Little Caesar Enterprises Inc., in a company statement. “This bowl is a great opportunity to provide a fun experience for families and college football fans, while supporting college athletics.”

Similar to Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, Little Caesars is running several promotions in conjunction with its bowl sponsorship.

By Sam Oches