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Volume 24 No. 117
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Intersport Activation Summit: Taco Bell's Niccol Talks About Thinking Outside The Bun

Newly appointed Taco Bell President Brian Niccol kicked off the '13 Intersport Activation Summit in Chicago today by talking about the company’s approach to brand marketing and sponsorship. His appointment coincides with the creation of a corporate goal to double Taco Bell’s revenue in the next 10 years, as well as to diversify its menu with healthier options. Niccol addressed the company’s partnerships with MLB, the NBA and the BCS National Championship Game. Specifically with MLB, the company activates through its “Big Hitter Box” as well as its Steal A Base, Steal A Taco promotion during the World Series. Its Big Hitter Box includes a downloadable Home Run Derby game where consumers can play against current MLBers. Niccol said the promotion is about utilizing digital and creating an experience. “If you go back a while ago we were trying to figure out how we activate the mark; now I think we’re trying to figure how we activate the experience.” The Steal A Base, Steal A Taco campaign was in action again this past postseason when Giants CF Angel Pagan during Game 2 stole a base. Niccol said the campaign needed to be timely. “We literally had the ad on the air the next morning. The reason is it has to be topical. At the same time we’re trying to activate this on television, we’re activating it on digital, social, mobile, radio. We literally tried to activate everything simultaneous to when the event actually occurred. It was powerful because instantly we amplified the idea.” The company used its NBA Big Box to relaunch the beefy crunch burrito, syncing the NBA’s tagline this season of BIG and its burrito. The company also utilized its NBA All-Star Taco Bell Skills Challenge to tout its philanthropic efforts in combination with Taco Bell’s foundation that awards students a four-year college scholarship.

MISSING THE POINT: Niccol talked about how a lot of marketing in the industry is not on point. “I actually think that a lot of the marketing that is going on right now is just flat-out bad -- bad and antiquated. We have a real tendency to take a pendulum and swing it one way or the other,” Niccol said. “Very rarely do we operate in the space where we say, ‘You know what, I’m going to treat this like a fan member. I’m going to treat this in such a way that people want to talk about it again and again and again.’ As opposed to just logo slapping or making a bad ad and bad marketing that people will not want to see again.”

* On brands remaining true to their consumers: “Authenticity is now the absolute minimum cost of entry. If you’re not authentic, you’re going to hear about it on Twitter, Facebook. You’re going to hear about it because consumers are tired of the shill. If you keep the authenticity, people will engage with your brand in a very big way.”
* On an ideal partnership with teams and leagues: “Sometimes you like to get into the nitty gritty of the pennies and dollars of what it’s going to cost. But I think if you can start the conversation around how am I going to build sales and how are we going to build the brand over time, you’ll find that usually you can come up with much more powerful ideas than working through the Excel spreadsheet.”
* On activating through sports: “We uniquely have the power of sports or these platforms or brands to truly influence the way people talk and connect.”