Cannes Lions

Overtime Deal

THE MARTIN AGENCY, Richmond / BUFFALO WILD WINGS / 2023

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Overview

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Overview

Background

Buffalo Wild Wings has always been known to celebrate overtime, thanks to a now iconic TV campaign where bartenders would hit an “overtime button” to make crazy things happen on the court to cause overtime, and in turn, allow fans to stay at the bar longer. That legacy continues today. Both on social media, where fans still tag the brand anytime a game goes into overtime, and in the restaurant, where the brand gives customers free wings if a game goes to overtime.

Buffalo Wild Wings came to us with a challenge: How can we take the brand’s equity in overtime and make it as big and as relevant as ever for the March Madness basketball tournament? With this March Madness tournament being the first ever where student athletes were eligible for endorsement deals from brands, we knew exactly what to do.

Idea

Every time a player sends a game to overtime, they not only create more time in the game, they create more great times at our bar and more time to sell more wings and beer. It also activates our mobile app’s Overtime Wingtime promotion, allowing customers to redeem six free wings whenever a game goes into overtime.

And now, during our biggest sales window of the year, we finally had a way to pay the players back for creating overtime. The Overtime Deal is the first-ever NIL sponsorship exclusively for players who send a game into overtime and create more time for great times at our sports bar. We had our signed players immediately promote our Overtime Wingtime deal (6 free wings through our mobile app every time a game goes into OT), using their overtime moment to drive fans to the bar in real time in a relevant way.

Strategy

For Buffalo Wild Wings to own overtime in a bigger way than ever and promote our mobile app’s Overtime Wingtime deal, we had to tap into what was exciting and engaging March Madness fans. The biggest conversation in college sports was the introduction of Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) deals, which allow college athletes to be compensated by brands for the first time ever. For decades, college sports generated billions of dollars off the backs of athletes who never saw a penny. Today, 70% of fans agree these athletes deserve to be paid (Harris 2020). So we made it happen with a first-to-market execution.

But we didn’t give out NIL deals for the sake of it. We came back to our overtime heritage. When players send games to overtime, they create the very thing our brand stands for: more great times amongst friends. And we knew just how to repay them.

Execution

This was the first March Madness NIL deals for college athletes have been allowed. And since most 19-year-old college players don’t have agents, deals could’ve taken weeks to become official. But during the tournament, there were only 2-3 days between the player’s overtime-sending shot and their next game where the story would still be relevant.

We turned this obstacle into an opportunity – creating a nimble legal team to sign players and share their promoted posts on social in nearly real time. Right as a player’s overtime-sending shot went in, we DM’d them, signed them, and ordered food to their location where they took a photo on their phone for their sponsored post. By locking in these deals in less than 48 hours, we were able to turn the social feeds of our players into megaphones for our overtime free wings deal while fans were still actively engaged.

Outcome

By locking deals with a 24- to 48-hour turnaround (typical deals can take 2-4 weeks), we drove more real-time impact. In total, we generated over 3.2 billion media impressions thanks to over 700 media placements. On top of that, we generated a 300% increase in social mentions (compared to previous March Madnesses) with 99.6% positive/neutral sentiment. Best of all, our mobile app’s overtime deal was redeemed 260,000 times. By tapping into the hype of March Madness’ biggest plays through the cultural relevance of NIL deals for college athletes, we established Buffalo Wild Wings as the home of overtime, and home of the best overtime meal deal, once again.

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