With the Olympics just two days away, bagel brand Einstein Bros. is saying, “Let the games begin!” with its recently launched Olympic-themed Facebook contest.

The “I Could Have Been a Contender” competition—which began on July 23 and runs through August 4—asks loyal Facebook fans to submit their best childhood or current photos that showcase themselves participating in various sporting events, coupled with a creative, funny, or quirky caption.

“We are asking fans to show off and share their athletic talents with our community,” says Heather Barnes, assistant manager of interactive marketing and loyalty for parent company Einstein Noah Restaurant Group. “From bowling to basketball, we want to see our fans’ best sports photos.”

After the photo submission period is complete, fans can vote on their favorite photos and captions from August 6–15. On August 17, winners will be announced: The top five winners will receive coupons for free bagels for a year, while the grand prize winner will receive a 2012 Nexus 7 tablet computer.

Barnes says the contest is an exciting way to interact with the brand’s fan base while playing on an idea that’s fun, on-trend, and newsworthy.

And by employing a concept that’s sports-focused, she says the brand connects with one of its key markets: athletic, physically active, and healthy diners.

“They already know that the Einstein Bros. brand is synonymous with fresh-baked, healthful options,” Barnes says. “They also know that we have great options for fueling up before heading out to participate in any sporting activity, and we want to show new fans that we should be the first choice for any sports enthusiast who wants to make a healthier choice.”

This emphasis on a healthy, active lifestyle aligns with the brand’s mindset, proven by the fact that it partners with several sports-related groups, including the American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure and Bicycle Village in Colorado.

Barnes also adds that running the contest through Facebook allows the brand to elevate engagement with consumers, reach out to fans who haven’t participated actively on the page in the past, and even rally new brand enthusiasts.

However, Facebook and other social media contests have their own set of operational challenges, including keeping customers and fans engaged after the contest is over.

“Anyone can post a coupon or discount,” Barnes says. “It is much harder to do so in a way that engages and entertains the fans and keeps them coming back for more.”

Barnes says the contest utilizes interactive content, which the brand has found to be successful in the past. “When we pose questions to our audience or ask for their opinions on our products or promotions, we are overwhelmed with positive responses.”

In addition, the contest builds a sense of community for fans and participants, while injecting a dose of competition.

“Competition is a fun and healthy way to get our fans involved with the brand,” Barnes says. “As a brand that prides itself on its innovation and creativity, we want this contest to show that we relate to and support these attributes in our fans, as well.”

By Mary Avant

News, Einstein Bros. Bagels