SBJ/September 25 - October 1, 2006/This Weeks News

BK signs a Whopper of a deal with MLS

The Whopper just became the official hamburger of Major League Soccer after Burger King signed a deal to become the league’s first official quick-service restaurant.

Burger King has used grassroots soccer to
attract Hispanic customers.
The seven-figure, multiyear commitment makes Burger King an associate-level partner nationally and entitles it to link the BK brand with the league logo, player rights, grassroots marketing and special events such as the MLS Cup.

MLS has struggled to fill the quick-service restaurant category nationally since its inception in 1996, instead lining up local deals such as McDonald’s in Houston and Papa John’s in Washington. It’s those local contracts that hindered the league’s ability to fill the category nationally in the past, said Kathy Carter, executive vice president of business development for Soccer United Marketing, the league’s marketing arm.

This deal, however, will give Burger King the ability to connect with the league nationally while allowing teams to sell the QSR category locally in the future, Carter said, adding, “That, for us, is a big thing.”

More than half of the league’s teams have local quick-service restaurant deals.

For its part, Burger King was looking for a way to expand its penetration of the Hispanic market via soccer after last year partnering with Alianza, a national adult-league Hispanic soccer tournament. MLS approached the company shortly afterward with a proposal, according to Alexandra Galindez, Burger King’s director of multicultural marketing.

The league offered the fast-food chain a chance to expand its use of soccer in reaching Hispanic consumers, in particular males age 18-34.

The fast-food chain has already activated around the partnership by launching a Spanish- and English-language Web site, bkgol.com, with a sweepstakes promotion that offers registrants the chance to win a trip and two VIP tickets to the MLS Cup on Nov. 12 in Dallas. At the game, the grand-prize winner will have a chance to make a kick for $100,000.

Burger King also will be doing on-site promotions at the MLS Cup by handing out Burger King- and MLS-branded soccer balls and giving fans “Have it your way” gift cards valued at $2.

The partnership provides some reciprocal benefits for the MLS as well. The sweepstakes will be promoted in stores from now until the MLS Cup on Nov. 12.

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