At the beginning of 2022, the Cincinnati Bengals made history when they tackled their way to the big game for the first time in 30 years. As the official chili sponsor of the Cincinnati Bengals, you can imagine our employees’ excitement. In fact, the whole state of Ohio was electric with anticipation of the final face-off for the season.

We knew we had an incredible opportunity to strengthen our brand’s positioning through our partnership with the Bengals. With impeccable timing and strong strategic vision, we were successful in leveraging our partnership to help increase traffic to our location both during the regular and postseason.

Regular Season Promotions Extended

During the regular season, we promoted our “Who Dey Way” deal. Whenever the Bengals won, guests could come to one of our franchise locations and take advantage of our BOGO offer: buy one, get one free 3-, 4-, or 5-Way of any size. Historically, we’ve seen this promotion do incredibly well, but with the Bengals’ remarkable season, it was all the more popular.

We kept the promotion in play into the postseason as a good luck charm for our team and to also keep customers excited and engaged with our franchise locations.

A Commemorative Postseason

The Bengals made it to the playoffs. All postseason, Gold Star ran a commemorative tumbler cup promotion. Customers that purchased one of our legendary Coney Crates (10 delicious Gold Star Cheese Coneys) for just $20.22 also had the chance to snag a tumbler cup. Those who were lucky enough to score one enjoyed free Pepsi refills for the entire month of February.

This promotion was especially important for our franchisees. The free refills accounted for increased guest counts which is always our goal in creating these types of promotions. Furthermore, there is a long-term marketing and branding effect of these commemorative cups being used in our guests’ everyday lives. Free refills or not, it’s a form of free advertising for Gold Star and our franchise locations.

Even though things didn’t go in our favor during the final face-off, we still wanted to honor our partners and their renowned season. Our Gold Star locations offered a final Who Dey Ways BOGO of a free regular or super 3-, 4- or 5-Way with the purchase of any regular or super 3-, 4- or 5-Way. We felt that, win or lose, we still needed to celebrate the Bengals, our customers, and our franchisees. All of us, in different ways, put in a lot of work this post-season to support our team. We didn’t think that should go unnoticed.

A Super Opportunity for a “Superfan”

In conjunction with Pepsi, our brand had the privilege to surprise River Blank, a 10-year-old Bengals “superfan,” with tickets to the big game to see his favorite team play. As an infant, River was diagnosed with a rare condition called infantile scoliosis and as such he has been bravely receiving treatment for most of his life.

What’s so inspiring about River, and what ultimately pushed us to surprise him with this gift, is his strength. He has incredible support from his parents, and I think that’s a big part of where his infectious spirit comes from. As a family-owned company, we felt drawn to celebrate this great family. So, we covered all travel and lodging expenses in addition to the tickets, so River and his family could go to SoFi Stadium and watch the game in person.

For our brand, it’s imperative people know how much we care about our community. Gold Star got its start in 1963 when my father and uncles came to America in search of better futures. They bought a restaurant, and because the Cincinnati community accepted them and loved their food, our brand is still here today. Working with Pepsi to give back to a family like River’s was the least we could do.

A History-Making Season

After many media appearances, we were able to reach 892.6 million people over the course of the Bengals’ postseason—not including regular season viewership. However, we did see a higher regular season audience than in previous years.

These improved media numbers are very likely due to the Bengals’ phenomenal season. The wide audience reach and spot-on timing of our product promotions helped considerably in encouraging customers to come through our franchise restaurant doors.

These past couple of years have been hard for all businesses—hard for everyone, really. As a franchisor, it’s our job to capitalize on the resources we have to provide a great experience for all—franchisees and customers especially. Our partnerships with Pepsi and the Cincinnati Bengals are what made the beginning of this year amazing for our brand. We were able to do incredible things. I look forward to what we can continue to accomplish in the coming seasons.

Roger David, president and CEO of GSR Brands, started his career at Gold Star as a dishwasher and now leads the organization, boasting two iconic brands in its portfolio—Gold Star and Tom & Chee.

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