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    Supermarket GROCERY Business: Touchdown!

    Scores of manufacturer promotions ensure the checkout lane will be the big winner this Super Bowl season.

    By Richard Turcsik

    A winning combination of official NFL market- ing alliances and stepped up advertising and promotion from scores of other manufacturers ensures supermarkets won't be sent to the showers on Super Bowl Sunday. And when the teams take the field in San Diego Jan. 26 for Super Bowl XXXVII, consumers will likely have stocked up on record-breaking amounts of beer, soft drinks, hors d'oeuvres, salty snacks, beef jerky, pizza, cheese, and other munchies. On the way, they'll have to pass and tackle scores of Refrigerator Perry-size endcap and in-aisle displays of their favorite products.

    "The Super Bowl has really turned into a tremendous retail event," says Jeff Weber, national sales manager for Old Wisconsin Sausage Co. in Sheboygan. "It used to be something that retailers used to kind of clean up what didn't sell for Christmas. In that [college] bowl season right after Christmas there is a fair amount of activity too, but the Super Bowl has really taken on a life of its own."

    "At-home entertaining is big at Super Bowl, and consumers look at it as sort of one long grazing opportunity," says Kris Charles, a spokeswoman for Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft Foods. "They do a lot of snacking throughout the game, and our brands are a perfect fit for that, with cheese and crackers being the most noticeable. But there are many others, including pizza and sandwiches." Charles adds that Kraft's 2003 Super Bowl promotion will likely include a charity tie-in.

    The 2002 Super Bowl was held on Feb. 3 because last season was interrupted for a week after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but the upcoming game is back on track, which could pose a problem for retailers. "You will have fewer selling days this year," warns Weber. "We've already told our salespeople and our brokers to be aware of that fact."

    "Originally we thought we would have some difficulty [with the delayed date], but in the end it worked out well for us," says Darci Eckermann, director of marketing services at Schwan's Consumer Brands North America, the Bloomington, Minn. maker of Red Baron pizza. "We had the best sales ever, because in essence we ended up picking up another week of sales. A couple of retailers did move us and moved our ads that we had, but, generally speaking, everyone worked really well together."

    Super Bowl-themed promotions are sure to be flowing in the beverage aisle come January, or even sooner. "We are doing an NFL-themed promotion in January as part of our new NFL agreement which we just signed this spring," says Dave DeCecco, a spokesman for Pepsi-Cola North America, Purchase, N.Y. Pepsi wrested away the lucrative agreement from long-time NFL partner Coca-Cola, although Coca-Cola maintains pouring rights and agreements with some of the individual teams. Other soft drink companies are also doing their part.

    Bud Bowl XIV

    "We have a generic football promotion for 7-Up that is a January effort that ties into college bowls and pro playoffs, but we don't mention specifics because others have the pouring rights and tie-ins," says Michael A. Martin, director, corporate communications, at Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc., in Plano, Texas. "With Dr Pepper we have a January tie-in with Orville Redenbacher popcorn that also ties in with January football games and the playoffs."

    Beer is another natural Super Bowl tie-in. Just ask any Bud Bowl fan. "Anheuser-Busch is looking to help grocers increase their sales through Budweiser and Bud Light's powerhouse Bud Bowl promotion, now entering its 14th successful campaign," says Dan Hoffmann, director of retail sales promotion for Anheuser-Busch, Inc., St. Louis. "The Bud Bowl 2003 promotion is built upon a 'Take the party home' theme encouraging consumers to stock up on beer and party goods for the championship game in late January. An exclusive Bud Bowl coupon booklet will offer consumers more than $10 in coupons toward big game favorites," he says.

    "Strong football-thematic point-of-sale features sports commentator Melissa Stark and includes a new semi-permanent framed spectacular display that can be retrofitted with new retail themes throughout the year. Anheuser-Busch is once again the exclusive beer sponsor of the Super Bowl telecast on NBC," he adds.

    Miller Brewing Co. is targeting football fans with its "Real Football, Real Fans" promotion for Miller Lite that is launching this fall as part of the Milwaukee-based brewer's new relationship with the ESPN network. During October, Miller Lite "secret spotters" are prowling off-premise locations to discover 50 "real" fans buying Miller Lite. Those spotted will win a trip to Las Vegas, where Miller is holding a major Super Bowl party. Fans can also enter for the trip via tear-off pads on displays.

    "Miller's strong relationship with ESPN brings a whole new element to our pro football promotion this year," says Buz Cady, manager of brand promotions. "This promotion is supported by TV and local radio advertising. The visibility of ESPN brings new energy and excitement to our on- and off-premise activities, which will help stimulate consumer demand and deliver incremental profits." Cross-promotion activities and displays with Planters, Hormel, Louisiana Hot Sauce, and Hefty bags help to carry the promotion to other areas of the store, where legal.

    Pizza party

    Beer also goes great with pizza, which is why Red Baron is participating in the Bud Bowl coupon book for the second year in a row. It's the fourth year Red Baron has teamed with Budweiser. From breakfast pizza to new stuffed pizza slices, the entire family of Red Baron products will be promoted for this year's game using the theme "Red Baron Play of the Game."

    "In the past we focused very heavily on a national promotion, but this year we decided to focus on the retailer. It's much more of a local focus," says Schwan's Eckermann.

    "We're offering retailers a heavy, heavy merchandising program," she says. "We allow them different levels of merchandising, whether it be simple static clings all the way up to full displays. Everything is customized with a football theme, so it is really about the retailer and their Super Bowl program, so they can cross-merchandise other programs."

    Schwan's will cross-merchandise with Budweiser through joint displays in the beer aisle where possible. "A lot of times our sales force will team up with Budweiser's and build joint displays in the stores," says Eckermann.

    In January Schwan's is launching a new TV commercial. "We will not advertise on the Super Bowl itself because it is too expensive, but we will be advertising during that period," she says.

    Hors d'oeuvres are another freezer case mainstay of Super Bowl parties. T.G.I. Friday's will be promoting its new chicken quesadilla rolls, Southwestern egg rolls, honey BBQ wings, and other products during the period. "We use a lot of FSI work and in-store trade promotion," says Scott Hart, general manager, acquired snacks, at H.J. Heinz Co. in Pittsburgh. "We're attempting to link up with the NFL Super Bowl in terms of timing, but we're planning just a traditional in-store display with FSI support."

    Wise Foods is also planning plenty of in-store promotion for its potato chips and other salty snacks. "When you're talking about a highly driven impulse category, like snack foods, in-store is where you want to be spending the majority of your funds, especially if you are a regional company," says Kevin Croen, product manager, related brands, in the Carlstadt, N.J., office of Kennesaw, Ga.-based Wise Foods, Inc., which sells its snacks primarily in the eastern half of the country. Wise will be in store ads, rotos, and in-store displays. "We want to be in front of the consumer to make it as easy as possible for their purchase decision. It is such an impulse item, but Super Bowl is one of the few times people will say, 'I must go in for chips because I have a house full of people,'" Croen says.

    For Wise, in-store works better than a TV campaign. "As with most regional companies, we find heavy TV and radio advertising are difficult to come by, especially during key promotional periods, so we'll be there with other types of media messages," Croen says. "We are a sponsor of many sports teams, including collegiate. Weaved into those messages are other messages driving consumers to the store."

    The deli, dairy, and cheese cases are also gearing up for the big game. Swissrose International is marketing a football-shaped cheese platter throughout the season. "It has three different types of cheeses, beef bites, Gulden's mustard, and a cute little football inside," says Dana Solomon, brand manager, at Swissrose International, a Moonachie, N.J.-based division of ConAgra.

    ConAgra's Snack Food Group, which is based in Raleigh, N.C., but moving its headquarters in December to Edina, Minn., is offering a 96-count Giant Slim Jim Special Pack in a large, plastic football mug. "Sales of meat snacks were up 27 percent during last year's Super Bowl period," says a company spokeswoman. "It is a big snacking occasion, with 30.4 million pounds of snack foods consumed during the 2001 Super Bowl, which was the highest snack consumption period of the year."

    ConAgra is promoting its Pemmican Beef Jerky in a special bag offering 25 percent more free. The promotion is being touted with the tag line: "Don't go for the bowl. Go for the bag." It is also working its David Seeds line into the promotion. "We say that no bowl is complete without them," says the spokeswoman.

    Old Wisconsin Sausage Co. is also betting big on the big game, merchandising selected items in NFL-licensed team containers. Themed point-of-sale displays have been developed to support its products, and a $5 consumer rebate is being offered on selected items. "Any time we can customize a promotion for a team that is doing good in the playoffs or going to the Super Bowl, you get something extra sprinkled on top," Weber says.

    Senior editor Richard Turcsik can be reached at [email protected].

    By Richard Turcsik
    • About Richard Turcsik

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