LOS ANGELES Schlotzsky’s is throwing out the first pitch for its first major QSR deal this week with a spring baseball-themed program that supports the casual chain’s launch of three Big League Clubz sandwiches.
The creative challenge was to spread the word about the new Beef ‘n Bacon, Chick ‘n Turkey and Ham ‘n Turkey club sandwiches among dads and their ball-playing kids by the bonding the sport brings — from Little League to the big leagues. (The promo has no affiliations with Major League Baseball or any other organization, however.) Austin, Texas-based Schlotzsky’s is owned by Focus brands (Carvel, Cinnabon, Moe’s Southwest Grill) and has about 350 restaurants in 35 states.
This is the largest promotion Schlotzsky’s has ever done, and marks the first time the chain has gone beyond the traditional media route.
“We brought in all these [components] to help [Schlotzsky’s] understand the power of social media to drive sales and to show them how measurable it is,” said Van Vandegrift, executive producer at branded entertainment company Matrixx Pictures in Santa Monica, Calif., the agency that devised the promotion. “In Web 1.0, we used to care about the time visitors spent on the site and where they went; now, the sentiment is about the brand, how many times it’s mentioned in blogs and in what context, photos posted to Twitter, drive-by buzz. This is great because this is a brand new sandwich — there’s no buzz yet.”
At a microsite (Bigleagueclubz.com), fans can join a Big League Clubz club and enter a sweepstakes to win a trip for four to St. Louis (coincidentally timed around the MLB All-Star game). The sweeps runs through May 31, and visitors who come back for extra site experiences — such as to play games or sign up for an e-letter — get bonus entries. Games will be a main draw, as there are video games and a fantasy baseball league component that involves drafting friends for teams. The latter will also extend to social networking sites such as Facebook.
A downloadable desktop widget lets players keep track of scores and other baseball info and gives Schlotzsky’s a conduit of communication. “We’ll know how many people download the widget, and when we push out an offer, we’ll know who we pushed it to and who responded,” Vandegrift said.
There are many more components: Codes from ads and point-of-purchase materials can be texted to win additional sweepstakes chances, the sandwiches have their own baseball-type cards that factor in and fans who collect those can upload photos to a site to receive a mini engraved baseball bat premium. There’s a local market activation push to help restaurants connect with baseball entities in their communities through sponsorships, team nights and other touch points.
“It’s rare to see a 40-year-old brand take a shot at new media,” said Vandegrift. Most are afraid to dip their toes in, and he believes the best way to introduce clients to Web 2.0 is to engage them personally. He added: “It’s about building a better social experience.”