Game On! Competition Heats Up as Restaurants Recruit Sports Stars to Score Sales

Posted in Restaurant Operations on August 24, 2021

331_matheus-bardemaker-RwoXb6lk7rA-unsplashConsumers love to feast on sports and food—and the restaurant industry learned long ago that pairing the two is a powerful way to score big business. Sports with a side order of food (and vice versa) is a surefire way to bring stadium-capacity crowds of sports fans to the table for special promotions and limited time offers.

Sports fans eating up superstar-endorsed restaurant promos has become as wonderfully predictable as a Tom Brady touchdown pass. Think NBA legend Michael Jordan and McDonald’s (the McJordan Special was a slam dunk in the 90s) and, more recently, Jordan’s fellow basketball hall-of-famer Shaquille O’Neal and Papa John’s (last year’s Shaq-a-Roni pizza delivered Shaq-size sales, with a dollar for every purchase donated to The Papa John’s Foundation for Building Community).

And, speaking of Tom Brady, the NFL’s most-winning quarterback of all time now joins an all-star team of sports icons, including tennis legend Serena Williams and soccer star Megan Rapinoe, endorsing the Subway sandwich chain. The Brady coup is part of an ambitious promotional push for the sandwich giant’s sweeping “Eat Fresh Refresh” menu upgrades.

The superstar-studded marketing campaign is meant to match the size and scope of the menu changes. As Subway Chief Marketing Officer Carrie Walsh explained, the menu revamp is “a significant moment in the brand’s transformation journey. As such, one single creative execution or spokesperson wouldn’t have been enough.”1

Walsh hails the campaign as one of the largest investments in media in Subway's history. "In my almost 20 years of marketing, this is the most innovative campaign and media strategy that I’ve ever seen,” she says.1 Menu modifications include 11 ingredients that are either returning or upgraded and the introduction of four new sandwiches.1

Good Sports: Big Brands Show Parallels with Big Athletic Events

Lately, major restaurant brands have been crowding an already competitive field with sports tie-ins faster than sprinters surging neck-and-neck at this year’s summer Olympics. Chipotle is commemorating the Olympics with a new gold foil wrapper that “celebrates American athletes” on the heels of digital-only menu items and new episodes of its “Unwrapped” video series, which promote the Mexican chain’s food as nutritious fuel for American athletes.2

Grubhub is getting in the game as the official food delivery partner of the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup, a biyearly battle for soccer supremacy among the top national teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean. The partnership will include an array of promotional integrations as the tournament, which delivers millions of viewers around the world, runs July 10 through August 1 on Univision and Fox networks.

“The world of soccer represents a uniquely diverse fanbase with global representation, a similarity that we share with our wide array of restaurants and what makes our partnership with Concacaf's Gold Cup such a great match,” explains Grubhub Senior Director of Marketing Stephanie Kopa,2 who compared performance on the field with the delivery provider’s track record and its Grubhub Guarantee.2

At Mondelēz International Foodservice, we offer an all-star lineup of snack brands and culinary experts. Team up with our acclaimed chefs to develop custom menu items and signature offerings that will help score higher sales during each sports season. Reach out below and together we can develop a game plan for a winning menu.


1 Maze, Jonathan, “Steph Curry, Serena Williams and Tom Brady Join Megan Rapinoe in Subway Ads,” Restaurant Business, July 13, 2021

2 Petre, Holly, “Restaurants and delivery providers shoot to score with customers in new sports tie-ins,”Nation’s Restaurant News, July 23, 2021

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