When the New York Mets play the Atlanta Braves, Wise Foods has a tough time picking a side. The 10th ranked player in the U.S. salty snacks industry has relationships with both teams for branded snacks both inside and outside of the ballpark.
Wise has been working with the Mets since 2005, and recently expanded the partnership with three unique flavors of ball-shaped cheese puffs. The Braves, in their first season working with Wise, have a hit with Bravos tortilla chips with the Braves logo on the bag. Both teams promote and sell Wise products in their ballparks, plus they get a cut of the retail sales of the products bearing their logos.
Before this season, the Braves were looking for another way to promote their brand both in and beyond the team's new SunTrust Park. They saw potential synergy in hooking up with Wise, particularly as they sometimes call the team Los Bravos, and Wise has a small line called Bravos. In time for the new ballpark this April, Wise introduced Stadium Nacho-flavored Bravos tortilla chips. Wise also sells two other flavors of Bravos with the Braves logo. But it's the stadium nacho flavor, which tastes a lot like the nacho chips and cheese dip one would get at a stadium, which seems to be the big winner.
"We designed it for that relationship," said Wise Chief Marketing Officer Jeremy Bjork.
Wise did not have any distribution of Bravos in the South, so the line is essentially a new product launch in Braves territory, Bjork said. It has already helped Wise get distribution in certain convenience stores and in grocers such as Publix. And the line is getting such positive feedback that Wise is looking to launch it in other markets this summer without the Braves logo.
There is also limited marketing support, including digital media promotions for both the Mets and Braves products. Wise also does some radio to support the Braves product and displays in major grocery stores. Wise works with Kastner & Partners and Asylum Marketing on its sports programming, and Perspective Branding handles pack design.
"The one unique thing that I think they brought to the table that we were really excited about was the fact that it wasn't just the normal nacho cheese and cool ranch-type scenario but that they had something unique to us which was the Stadium Nacho flavoring," said Jim Allen, VP-corporate partnerships for the Braves. "It tastes like a stadium nacho ... it was definitely something that we got really excited about from a Braves perspective."
At Braves games, fans can still buy the typical tortilla chips with nacho cheese sauce. Starting this season, stands are also selling three varieties of bagged Bravos chips: Stadium Nacho, Extreme, and Nacho cheese. Plus, after certain games, bags are handed out for free.
Getting that stadium nacho flavor just right, among other flavors, is key, the parties say.
"My purchasing guy hates me" because the costs for seasonings have gone up dramatically as the company has come up with new flavor ideas, said Bjork, whose team also markets products such as loaded chili cheese dog and grilled cheeseburger potato chips.
For the Mets, there are NY Mets Fastballs Extreme Spicy, Sliders Bacon Cheddar, and Changeups White Cheddar versions of Cheez Doodles. Wise recently renegotiated its deal with the Mets including those specially-branded products, additional branding, and signs in the ballpark. It also helps craft programs that incentivize retailers to sell the products, said Wes Engram, VP-corporate partnerships for the Mets.
"It helps us get our brand out in the region, which is really a noisy marketplace," said Engram. "Wise is an institution in the Northeast with great distribution."
For now, Wise products are mainly available on the Eastern seaboard, but they are also starting to spread a little more westward. Wise Foods holds less than 1% share of the U.S. salty snack market, according to Euromonitor International. It's a distant player behind Frito-Lay, which holds a nearly 66% share.