Game day has long been an opportunity for quick service restaurant (QSR) marketers to make a big splash with sports fans. The focused attention of a large audience, with a common passion, in a relatively short window can be an irresistible siren’s call for most advertisers. But marketing around game day doesn’t come without its own set of challenges. How can you ensure that your core game day investments are creating maximal impact and driving the right results?
Below, we take a look at the common game day challenges faced by QSR marketers, and what steps can be put in place before, during and after the big day to ensure a winning campaign.
One common challenge is understanding how to calibrate campaigns to the ebbs and flows around game season. What are the best times to deploy campaigns and at which point should you use digital advertising to augment event sponsorships?
Marketers can start by conducting a seasonal analysis to help uncover patterns and pinpoint the driving forces that spike QSR sales on game day, specifically in Designated Market Areas (DMAs). A recent case study for a national pizza chain revealed a substantial average sales increase of 52% between in-season and out-of-season Saturdays across eight DMA cities where college football is popular (Auburn, Knoxville, Baton Rouge, Ann Arbor, Tallahassee, Madison, Gainseville, Athens). The study also revealed a significant sales increase of 30% between the overall in-season and out-of-season average across the eight cities. From the data, it’s clear that in-season digital advertising efforts play a critical role in augmenting core game day marketing strategies for QSR brands.
Game day is a prime opportunity for marketers to reach their most relevant audiences; the trick is in reaching those audiences before your competitors do.
During games, fans are often on mobile devices, whether it’s connecting with friends or sharing updates. Broadcasting your content digitally across multiple devices and channels means connecting with on-the-go audiences, no matter their location. Even fans enjoying a live broadcast at a viewing party may choose to split their attention between the big screen and engaging with mobile content. The focus should be on connecting with your target audience on their device of choice.
eMarketer’s “Mobile Time Spent 2018” report found US adults spend an average of 3 hours and 35 minutes per day on their mobile devices. In 2019, mobile is projected to surpass TV as the medium attracting the most minutes in the U.S. And according to Neilsen, the average millenial touches their phone 45 times per day. No one uses one screen at a time anymore and neither should your advertising.
It’s also important to employ real-time audience optimization, ensuring you are reaching the most valuable users for your brand by monitoring their interests and intentions in real-time. As every kid learns in 6th grade dodgeball, timing is everything. In digital advertising, meeting the consumer at the right moment (i.e. when their online behaviors signal their readiness to order that pizza) means that that your ad will impart the highest impact while your spend is allocated as efficiently as possible.
So how can you effectively cut through the noise and ensure consumers are engaged with your digital ad? Pair your video content with interactive call-to-actions, including menus, maps and special offers. These features not only engage the consumer, but also create a seamless customer experience that assist in the decisioning process. Taking it a step further, combining special offers with geo- targeting can yield even greater results. In 2018, Burger King offered individuals within 600 feet of a McDonald’s a promotion for a one-cent Whopper through the branded mobile app, which then provided directions to the closest location. Utilizing both coupons and promotions in combination with geo-location provides consumers with a monetary benefit in addition to convenience.
After the game, it’s important to understand the impact of your investments to make your victories last longer.
Sports is a visual experience and using video that is accountable to performance metrics should be a core part of any plan. Utilizing performance video will help bridge the gap between digital advertising spend and real-world outcomes, making it easier to understand how advertising efforts are tied to measurable campaign performance, including new orders or customers as a result of your campaign. Ongoing exposure coupled with real-time machine learning can extend the post-game rush by analyzing and optimizing target audiences in real-time to drive conversions.
After all, while game day is just a moment in time, it’s a great opportunity to connect directly to customers. Cultivating those relationships requires reinforcement after the fact. Maintaining a continuous advertising presence throughout the season will continue to drive orders from loyal customers and grow market share long after the final play.
Advertising around game days often requires a significant investment within a small window of opportunity. QSR brands and marketers can make the most of that opportunity window by understanding the market forces at play, and employing the right mix of research, technology and creative innovation. A lasting impact can turn a casual fan into a loyal customer, and that should always count as a win.
John holds an MBA from the Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, and is based in Exponential’s Baltimore office.