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Volume 25 No. 239
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Social Studies: Cheez-It Embraces Place In College Sports Scene

Cheez-It (@cheezit) has learned the power of social media first-hand. Cheez-It Senior Dir of Marketing Jeff Delonis said several years ago there were conversations regarding the few overcooked crackers in Cheez-It boxes. He said, “The more we found that conversation, we found that there is a strong fanbase for these Cheez-It crackers that were baked extra long, and it gave birth to the idea of the Extra Toasty Cheez-It cracker. It has been launched as nationally available and there is a lot of growth behind it.” He said that finding its place in the social landscape is something the brand won’t force. But sometimes the Twitterverse hands you a gem. Recently, the fire alarm went off in Hornets F Frank Kaminsky's apartment building. Kaminsky grabbed a box of Cheez-Its, but gave it to a neighbor while he carried her baby down 46 stories. Delonis: “There is a natural connection with our fans and fans at large where we can see ourselves in some of those events. There is a little bit of humor in that the Cheez-It box made it through the fire drill.”

SOCIAL SNAPSHOT
Favorite apps: YouTube is one that gets regular use on my mobile phone. Some of that is having children and keeping them entertained. 
Average time per day on social media: Across the day, it’s a least an hour, hour and a half, maybe two hours.

Importance of sports to Cheez-It’s social media strategy:
Snacks often become an important part of that game-watching experience. Social media has become a big part as well. There is a natural tendency for the football-watching experience to make it a sharing occasion. When you put those pieces together, it becomes a natural way for Cheez-It to enter the conversation in a relevant way.

Why college football is a good fit for the brand:
Snacks are important to the gameday experience, whether they are at a tailgate, at home. It’s a natural place to be. Cheez-It already has a long history with sports. We had the title sponsorship for the first-ever Cheez-It Bowl, formerly the Cactus Bowl, 20-25 NCAA schools for football and basketball. We have a presence at home games, and we have a chance to bring some of the Cheez-It fun to campus through tailgate activities. We have some recent partnerships with MLS and NASCAR. From a college football standpoint, a lot of people still associate Cheez-It with "ESPN College GameDay," even though it is not something we are involved with currently. But we do have that heritage.

How engagement changes during college football season:
We definitely place a priority to reaching out to our fans during college football season. Through the Wendy’s College Tailgate Tour, we have a chance to bring the Cheez-It experience to the stadiums. Sometimes, we are able to have a celebrity football player, perhaps a past player from that school will join us on campus and create an opportunity for pictures and social media posts to help create engagement. We make a dedicated push that time of year. We also see fans will start to invoke Cheez-It as they are watching already anyway, and we certainly saw that in December with significant social interaction through the Cheez-It Bowl.

Keeping the spirit of the TV ads alive on social media:
The spirit of the ads comes down to the sense of enjoyment, the sense of fun. We focus on not just replaying the video, but we take an approach and look at the different social channels we work on and create different content for the specific social channels with best practices in mind. A big part of that is leveraging our distinctive assets for the brand in that environment, whether that is the recognizable Cheez-It font or the consistency of the tone or the copy. The cheese wheel, which we affectionately refer to as Cheese, has a significance presence in the TV ads and brings a sense of humor.

Not as active on Instagram:
We have explored and looked at a lot of the different social media channels. At this point in time, what we learned is Twitter gives us a unique opportunity and has created some of the greatest sparks for conversations with our fans. We continue to explore Instagram and have done a lot of work on Facebook, but continue to look at those areas but focus on where we’ve gotten that spark and see a lot of passion.

Fine line with interjecting in social conversations:
It’s an important one and something we talk about quite a bit. There are places where it’s easy to try to go down the path to find something spiking from a cultural standpoint. But if the brand doesn’t fit, it’s not a good place, and we’ll call that out and decide against it. We want to be humorous, we want to be fun, we want to be engaging, but it is very important for the brand to be authentic and talk to our consumers in an authentic way.

If you know anyone who should be featured for their use of social media, send their name to us at jperez@sportsbusinessdaily.com.