Forget mom, apple pie, and baseball. That was so October. Now it's college football bowl season, and with a new high-profile sponsorship of its own this year, Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD) may have a big advantage over other advertisers.
College bowl sponsorships are big business. No longer just a football tradition -- the granddaddy of all bowl games, the Rose Bowl, extends all the way back to 1902 -- they are now a huge financial and media extravaganza.
What's in a name?
Disney's (NYSE:DIS) ESPN holds the media and naming rights to all the College Football Playoff bowls, and for those looking to sponsor the top games, it's reportedly charging as much as $25 million with six-year commitments required.
Buffalo Wild Wings moved up to the big leagues for the 2014-2015 season when it snared the Citrus Bowl sponsorship. Previously sponsored by Capital One Financial (NYSE:COF), which moved onto the Orange Bowl after Discover Financial Services (NYSE:DFS) dropped out, B-Dubs is now behind the seventh oldest bowl game in the country.
A valuable piece of real estate
Sponsorship gives advertisers exposure to the valuable affluent, 18 to 40 year old male demographic. And B-Dubs says the Citrus Bowl gives it national exposure through television, radio, and social media. Previously the restaurant chain had sponsored what is now known as the Cactus Bowl, which immediately gives you a sense of the low stakes at play. Think deserts and tumbleweeds.
But the wings-and-beer outfit has an advantage.
The Wall Street Journal says student attendance at bowl games has dropped 7% since 2009, partly due to high ticket prices and the proliferation of televised games. Buffalo Wild Wings sees this as an opportunity to draw students into its doors for game-watching.
Plugging in to its customers
Buffalo Wild Wings has spent a lot of money to make its restaurants a destination for such events, including reimagining the interior with its stadia design and the inclusion of technology to hold customer attention while they're there.
This has cost Buffalo Wild Wings approximately $12,000 to $15,000 per site to put tablets into each of the 1,045 or so restaurants it operates, and IT infrastructure costs for the fourth quarter of 2014 alone were expected to be between $4 million and $6 million.
Such tech spending has included its online gaming platform, GameBreak, introducing tablets at three quarters of the restaurants' tables, a proprietary B-Dubs TV Network, and a soon-to-be unveiled member loyalty program. "Tablegating" has never been easier or more exciting.
Beyond its own Citrus Bowl, B-Dubs also tied into the entire bowl schedule by launching the "Million Dollar Bowl Pick'Em Challenge" through GameBreak, in which participants vie for prizes and the chance to win $1 million by guessing correctly the winners of all 39 college bowl games.
Looking to bowl over fans
The football marathon begins this weekend with the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl and ends on Jan. 4 with the GoDaddy Bowl. In between you'll find not only the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl, but also the Russell Athletic Bowl, Belk Bowl, and Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
The Citrus Bowl will kickoff at 1 p.m. on New Year's Day, and though perhaps slightly overshadowed by the Cotton Bowl, which begins a half hour earlier, it immediately precedes the highly-viewed Rose Bowl.
While a department store like Belk may be supporting the city where it's headquartered and hopes to derive some local sales benefit as a result, Buffalo Wild Wings with its national footprint and tie-ins to all the games can potentially see a much larger payoff.
There may be bigger days for customer traffic at its restaurants -- during events like the next NFL Super Bowl scheduled for Feb. 1, 2015 -- but the start of the college football bowl season and Buffalo Wild Wings own Citrus Bowl sponsorship offers a promising kickoff to the coming year.