SBJ/February 4 - 10, 2002/Marketingsponsorship

Quizno's adds a slice of NHL to its campaign to go national

Quizno's Subs has signed on as the NHL's newest corporate sponsor. Sources put the three-year deal in the low seven figures annually, including media commitments on NHL broadcasters ESPN and ABC. The deal includes NHL Players' Association rights, which are sold in tandem with the league's corporate rights, when possible.

The Denver-based "upscale" sandwich chain is one of the few quick-service restaurants showing any growth, and its marketing has lately mirrored a new quest for a national identity. Quizno's, now the official sub and official quick-service restaurant of the NHL, was to have an ad in the first quarter of the Super Bowl, easily the smallest brand buying time in advertising's biggest and costliest showplace. Similarly, the NHL gives Quizno's some identity and size as it expands into markets where the NHL is strong, such as Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

"They wanted a sports property to give them a feeling of size and strength," said Andrew Judelson, the NHL's vice president, corporate sponsorship. "And we both like to be characterized as aggressive, so there's a fit there, too."

Another thing Quizno's shares with the NHL is its strength among the 18-35 male demographic. League officials have been promised that Quizno's agency, Cliff Freeman and Partners, will do hockey-themed TV ads, though likely not until next year. Some hockey-themed print ads are expected this season, and current ads may be tagged with NHL references. Freeman is a shop known for edgy creative, including "Where's the Beef" for Wendy's and the now-infamous ad for online retailer Outpost.com, in which gerbils were shot from a cannon (the agency has long insisted that no gerbils were harmed).

On the promotional side, Quizno's is hoping to run a Stanley Cup-themed promo this spring. With more than 100 locations in Los Angeles, site of this season's NHL All-Star Game, Quizno's had limited activation of its new sponsorship last week, including a presence at the fan fest accompanying the All-Star Game and some corporate hospitality.

Quizno's, which replaces Wendy's as the NHL fast-food sponsor, pours Coke, putting it in tandem with the NHL's beverage corporate sponsor. The disparity in size (Wendy's has 6,000 U.S. restaurants, Quizno's has 1,100) is not great news as far as executing in-store promotions. But the agreement comes at a time when fast-food chains have been cutting back or eliminating their national sports sponsorships. The Quizno's deal does not include rights in Canada, where the NHL has a long-standing agreement with McDonald's.

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