Cannes Lions

Buffalo Wild Wings: “They’re a wing place but them burgers are slept on”

ZENITH, New York / BUFFALO WILD WINGS / 2024

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Overview

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Overview

Background

While a beloved American sports bar by sports fans and friend groups alike, 2023 restaurant sales were down overall versus the prior year. As such, the brand made a big bet on burgers to help drive transaction profitability beyond wings short-term and continue to build BWW’s credentials in food innovation long-term. Burgers made up 1/3 of the menu but were only contributing to 5.6% of total sales, despite positive pre-market testing.

But to overcome the kind of serious burger doubt against us, we had to build up BWW’s burger game in a big way, turn the cultural conversation on its head and drive positive credibility for the brand and its burgers. We needed to solidify burgers as a menu staple AND deliver +15% burger transactions to drive the business.

The integration, strategically timed around the 2023 NFL Draft, ensured BWWs remained at the forefront of sports and cultural conversations.

Idea

In a groundbreaking move, we assembled a football fan dream team featuring hosts Travis and Jason Kelce, breakout star Brock Purdy, and fan-favorite Sauce Gardner for New Heights' NFL Draft episodes. Departing from scripted podcast advertising, we crafted a three-episode custom sponsorship with unprecedented in-show integrations. The Kelce brothers kicked off authentic conversations, reminiscing about their love for BWWs – and its burgers, sharing favorite orders – which included the burgers, and high school memories.

Sauce and Purdy also enthusiastically endorsed BWWs and its unexpectedly great burgers. Purdy's analogy likened the overlooked burgers to his rookie year, urging listeners to discover their greatness. Together, they conveyed genuine enthusiasm for BWWs and its burgers, aligning with their journeys and achievements. Seamlessly woven into the episodes, the sponsorship blurred the lines between content and advertisement, setting a new standard for podcast advertising with its immersive and organic approach.

Strategy

As part of our strategic process, our team leveraged social listening to understand the consumer tension for why selling burgers would take work. We learned consumers were skeptical to try BWW’s burgers and this brand hurdle drove our strategy centered on getting the haters and nay-sayers to give BWW’s burgers a try. As 95% of BWWs customers are sports fans, this identified our best scalable target.

With the target and strategy solidified, we dug into what sports fans care most about and the universal fan truth is: everyone loves a good underdog story. This human truth led us to the insight of playing into our underdog status.

The breakthrough moment was connecting this insight to then identifying a true underdog turned champion who also happened to be a huge fan of BWWs and its burgers, who would help us credential our burgers and ultimately, make an irrelevant menu item relevant.

Outcome

Our activation garnered a staggering 75 million impressions, exceeding expectations by 152%, and captivating an engaged New Heights fanbase of 2.4 million, doubling Engagement Rate benchmarks. This media collaboration cemented BWW's reputation beyond mere wings, establishing its burger credentials, reshaping consumer perceptions, and ultimately driving unparalleled profitability for the business.

Through our dynamic partnership, BWW witnessed an explosive surge in burger sales, skyrocketing by 74% per store per day during the promotion, and sustaining a remarkable 21% growth thereafter, surpassing all projections. The campaign spurred a staggering 72% increase in burger attachment rates, persisting at 28% post-promotion, indicative of a significant shift in consumer behavior towards BWW's burgers. In the six weeks following the campaign, burger sales maintained an impressive 20% growth compared to the pre-campaign baseline and we beat sales goals overall by almost 50%.

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