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Winning big in the deli

Increased competition from supercenters, discounters, e-commerce and other retail formats has grocery chains working harder than ever to retain their share of wallet. Consumer-directed advertising and promotional efforts are an important way to help build brand awareness, attract new shoppers and bolster loyalty among existing customers.

The sweeping popularity of sports, whether professional, collegiate or in some cases, regional and youth programs, provides valuable marketing opportunities for retailers to reach customers and influence sales with sports-related promotions both big and small.

Big-time sporting events, big-time promotions

Promotional ideas tied to major events like the Super Bowl, NASCAR racing and the World Series offer countless opportunities for retailers to highlight their stores with everything from in-store promotions to large-scale media campaigns. Kroger’s master floral designers have created the Kentucky Derby’s famous garland of roses for the past 28 years; H-E-B has found success with its annual batch of San Antonio Spurs television commercials; and Safeway recently inked a five-year deal to join the PGA Tour as a new title sponsor, to name just a few examples.

To coincide with the 2015-16 football season, Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix Super Markets has sponsored four NFL teams in its geographic area: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Miami Dolphins, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Atlanta Falcons. Publix has held tailgating competitions in those cities, and parts of the Publix website have been devoted to football-themed recipes and the tailgating experience.

“Football season is a huge sales opportunity for our stores. Our customers are looking for their in-home and at-stadium tailgating needs. We are perfectly positioned to help them meet those needs,” said Maria Brous, director of media and community relations for Publix.

Publix married its deli subs with its NFL sponsorship, creating signature sub sandwiches for each of its football markets. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sub included jerk turkey and chipotle Gouda, guacamole, peach mango salsa and plantain chips; the Miami Dolphins Sub consisted of chipotle chicken, fried platanos maduros and peach mango salsa; the Jacksonville Jaguars Sub combined hot chicken tenders, bacon, Cheddar cheese, sweet coleslaw and BBQ sauce; and the Atlanta Falcons Sub was made of hot maple-flavored chicken tenders, bacon, peach preserves and Sriracha mayonnaise.

“During the football season, our stores create interest in displays and drive traffic to in-demand tailgating items. We carry this relationship into the stadium with promos spots that tie into our partnership, but take it one step further with a tie-in to our joint community efforts,” added Brous. “Publix and our NFL teams are passionate about the communities in which we live, work and play. Being community minded and sharing in similar values makes the partnership a win-win.”

Publix isn’t the only retailer to tie into the football season with deli sandwich promotions. This fall Harris Teeter, a Matthews, N.C.-based Kroger subsidiary, celebrated the Washington Redskins and the Carolina Panthers with Signature Sub Sandwiches at its Fresh Foods Market Sandwich Shops.

Most recently, Washington Redskins defensive lineman Chris Baker teamed up with Harris Teeter to roll out The Swaggy Melt, the retailer’s third and final sub for the 2015-16 season. The $3.99 sandwich, available in all Washington-area Harris Teeter stores, features Philly cheesesteak topped with white American cheese, lettuce, tomato, banana peppers, jalapenos, onions, mayonnaise, steak sauce and a dash of salt and pepper on a white sub roll. Shoppers can make it a $4.49 lunch pack that includes The Swaggy Melt sandwich and their choice of one chocolate chunk, macadamia nut, oatmeal raisin or cranberry nut cookie. As part of the launch, Baker appeared at a Harris Teeter location where he signed autographs.

Another way to inspire consumer interest in the deli and prepared food department is through digital content. Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Giant Eagle’s website, for example, offers party and event planning tips for how to “Throw a Big Game Bash,” with a sandwich guide and sandwich recipes that include cold cuts, cheeses and salads from the Giant Eagle deli. The company’s website also promotes its hot wings, chicken, party platters, cheese trays and antipasti and includes sections entirely devoted to the “big game” and tailgating.

Savvy suppliers also are getting into the sports marketing action. Family-owned Reser’s Fine Foods, a Beaverton, Ore.-based provider of deli salads, fresh salads, side dishes and prepared foods, is a NASCAR partner sponsor for the Joe Gibbs Racing, for example. Sponsoring Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 JGR Toyota in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, Reser’s was slated to appear on the No. 20 Toyota five times during the 2015 season.

“Sponsoring NASCAR continues to give us the opportunity to engage with our consumers,” explained Brenda Killingsworth, trade marketing manager for Reser’s. “From sampling product on the track, to creative promotions in retail stores across the country, our partnership with JGR provides a tremendous marketing platform to support our business.”

A commitment to community

Partnering with local and regional sports teams and organizations is another way for retailers to build customer loyalty, demonstrate community involvement and set themselves apart from their competition.

Publix’s website notes that the retailer is an avid supporter of several youth soccer organizations in the Southeast. Its website includes sections called “Recipes to Fuel Your Soccer Player” and “Tips for Keeping the Team in Top Condition” that promote such food options as Publix’s Deli Subs, Garden-Fresh Vegetable Platters, Fresh Fruit Platters, Chicken Tenders Platters, Wrap Variety Platters, Cubanitos Platters, and sliced meats and cheeses from the Publix deli.

Similarly, Shaw’s and Star Markets supermarkets, Albertsons’ West Bridgewater, Mass.-based grocery chains, are supporters of youth baseball leagues and youth soccer teams, with each of their stores sponsoring a team for the 2015 season. The retailers offer promotions such as My Tailgate Rules, which asked participants to share some of their favorite tailgating experiences to win a $75 gift card daily, and the Youth League to Big League Sweepstakes, an in-store campaign offering Shaw’s and Star Market customers a chance to win prizes throughout the baseball season.

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