SBJ/Aug. 26-Sept. 1, 2013/Franchises

Suns bring Carl’s Jr. into arena

The Phoenix Suns have signed a multiyear sponsorship deal with hamburger chain Carl’s Jr. that includes the opening of a restaurant at US Airways Center that will operate during non-game-day hours.

The deal also provides for a separate, Carl’s Jr. mini-store on the arena’s concourse that would be open during arena events.

A rendering shows a concourse location. Another site will be open on non-game days.
Image: SUNS CREATIVE
The sponsorship fills the quick-service restaurant category for the team. According to one source, the sponsorship is a five-year deal valued at more than $4 million.

Suns President Jason Rowley would not confirm financial terms, but he called the agreement a marquee-level partnership. The deal replaces the Suns’ previous agreements with Jack in the Box and McDonald’s, who shared the QSR category.

“One of the things we are trying to create is competition among categories,” Rowley said. “Carl’s Jr. is one of our largest deals, and we wanted to do a 360 [degree] approach.”

The deal is anchored by what will be a 2,000-square-foot Carl Jr.’s restaurant to open by the start of the coming NBA season adjacent to the downtown arena’s primary, Jefferson Avenue entrance. The store will include an entrance to the Suns’ team store inside the arena.

The restaurant will have normal business hours on non-game days as well as operating during games. A Starbucks, which also was open during non-game-day hours, currently occupies the space and will be converted into the Carl’s Jr. restaurant.

“One thing that is missing from downtown Phoenix is quick-service restaurants, and this location is in a marquee building in downtown Phoenix outwardly facing the public,” Rowley said.

Other elements include a media buy, in-arena signage and related promotions.

The concept of teams putting non-game-day restaurants and retail operations inside arenas is hardly new, but some of those past deals have come and gone, as the retail sites struggled to gain traction when the home team was not playing.

Rowley and Carl’s Jr. are banking on the downtown, arena-front location to drive the restaurant’s business. California-based Carl’s Jr. has about 45 locations in the Phoenix area.

“They have a strong brand, and the location is one of the busiest streets with very limited competition,” Rowley said.

Carl’s Jr. officials were unavailable for comment.

No agencies were involved in the deal, which Rowley said took just one week to complete after the team made its pitch. That pitch included having the Carl’s Jr. logo displayed across the arena’s doors and having the Carl’s Jr. executive staff greeted at the arena for a presentation by all team employees wearing T-shirts featuring the company’s logo. Also on hand were the Suns dance team, the Suns’ Gorilla mascot (who rappelled down to the executives from the arena rafters) and Brittney Griner, star rookie from the WNBA Phoenix Mercury.

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