As college football teams head to some of the 40 bowls taking place across the country, no destination is perhaps as tempting as the Bahamas Bowl. And for the second year in a row, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen will be the title sponsor for the Christmas Eve game, this time with Middle Tennessee squaring off against Western Michigan.
“When you become a big brand, big brands do big things and that’s really one of the inspirations behind … partnering with the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl,” says chief marketing officer Hector Munoz. “There’s some great, powerful synergies between our Popeyes fans and not only college football fans, but football fans in general. If you go back and think about it, they’re both intensely loyal, very, very passionate for their team. They all love good food and good times.”
Last year, a third-party sports marketing agency approached the Atlanta-based chicken brand about sponsoring one of the bowls. Munoz says the Bahamas felt like the perfect fit given the islands’ shared passion for great-tasting food with bold and spicy flavors.
He adds that the timing was perfect, too; if the offer had been made three years earlier, the company probably wouldn’t have been able to take part. Following its brand refresh, Popeyes has seen its store count reach the 2,500 mark; its media coverage jump to more than 40 weeks of the year; and its average sales volumes grow to 25 percent more than five years ago.
Popeyes was no stranger to America’s pastime when it signed on for its first Bahamas Bowl in 2014. Munoz says the quick serve caters a number of football games—at least one each week. He adds that there are even rituals for certain teams in which rookie players have to buy food for the linemen.
Nevertheless, last year’s bowl did drive brand recognition in a way that no catering or game day ritual could.
“That’s one of the wonderful things about this. When you’re the title sponsor, you have the opportunity to activate and to engage with consumers,” Munoz says. “Based on the results, it was a wild success and it brought so many impressions, literally billions of impressions of our brand to consumers throughout the U.S.”
Last year, Popeyes used the Bahamas Bowl to launch its Ghost Pepper Wings, and Munoz promises the same this year when the brand unveils its newest LTO at noon Thursday, which will then be available in stores Saturday, December 26.
Popeyes’ involvement in the Bahamas has quickly grown beyond sponsoring the bowl. Earlier this month the brand opened its first Nassau location, purportedly a $2.5 million flagship store for the region. Munoz says they plan to open five to eight more over the next three years.
This year Popeyes also started a youth football league comprised of eight to 10 teams that play in various islands across the Bahamas. Beyond teaching the young boys how to play football safely and effectively, the league also emphasizes values like brotherhood, discipline, and hard work.
And while college football might be winding down, Popeyes is hoping to carry that same synergy into the professional arena. In January the company will conduct a few tests to determine if an opportunity exists for something related to the Super Bowl; if so, it could be rolled out on a national level as early as 2017.
“We’re constantly evaluating how we can continue to partner up with some of these higher-profile initiatives … whether it’s by food offerings or just a traditional partnership,” Munoz says. “There is an opportunity, we believe, to really cater to our guests during the Super Bowl time period.”
By Nicole Duncan