NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Wendy's aims to own football content on ESPN this fall, thanks to an exclusive five-month sponsorship deal with the multiplatform sports network. Wendy's will become the official sponsor of "Football Fridays," programming that will run for the duration of the professional, college and high-school football seasons.
The deal is part of a larger trend of marketers wanting to link to specific programming and ensure that their ads are seen when consumers are likely to be most engaged with a media company's content.
For Wendy's, whose sales have ranged from flat to slightly positive this year, the agreement helps put its offerings in front of its target audience with something more than just a commercial.
"The hope is you're going to surround your target audience with your brand messages and that you are delivering via an avenue or vehicle they are very receptive to," said Denny Lynch, senior VP-communications at Wendy's. "They are tuning in because they are avid football fans, and if we can surround them with our messaging, we believe that supplies great value. Now, time will tell if we are right. But that's why you do these things, because you think there is intrinsic value. The belief would be that it's more effective than a simple commercial that airs in the show."
Mr. Lynch said the sponsorship also satisfies Wendy's taste for working across multiple platforms.
"We have been kicking around this idea of cross promotion on multiple platforms," he said. "This was one that seemed very appealing, and the fact that it's new programming is an added plus. This fits into the way we like to look at things, which is across multiple platforms and being able to have ownership of an idea that you can deliver in multiple ways, build a reputation for and a connection with consumers through is a bonus."
"Football Friday presented by Wendy's" will include a full suite of football-related content that will run across ESPN and ESPN2, as well as ESPN.com, ESPN Mobile, ESPN360.com, ESPN The Magazine and ESPN audio. Wendy's commercials will run during every show it sponsors as well. Publicis Groupe's MediaVest, Wendy's media agency of record, brokered the deal.
The program will be supported by a co-branded 30-second spot, and Wendy's Football Friday programming will include placement on shows including "SportsCenter," "First Take," "College Football Live," "NFL Live," and the TV and radio broadcasts of both "Mike & Mike in the Morning" and "The Herd With Colin Cowherd."
Other Wendy's placements will include video content on ESPN.com, full-page integrations in ESPN The Magazine throughout the season and events such as the 10-city Gridiron Tour, ESPN The Magazine's annual on-campus celebration of football fandom. ESPN.com will also have a dedicated Football Friday section.
Ed Erhardt, president-customer marketing and sales at ESPN, said this deal is different from any other ESPN has done before because of its broadness and the fact that it has created a brand for Wendy's that cuts across all football -- the NFL, NCAA and high school.
"Wendy's will be associated with content that football fans demand and want to have when they are really in the mood of getting engaged with their sport or team," Mr. Erhardt said. "That top-of-mind awareness on anything that has to do with ESPN when it relates to football on Friday, to me, is a great place to build customer engagement."
Mr. Erhardt said Wendy's isn't the only marketer looking to formulate this type of deal. "Advertisers and agencies are looking for concepts they can own, leverage and build," he said. "We have created a Wendy's co-branded 30-second spot that will run together with a logo. These are assets that we are creating to try to bring to the marketplace and Wendy's so that they truly have something it owns and can leverage over time. It is making a commitment to a concept, sport, and time of day, and that is something that all of their franchisees can get behind."
Dan Arzewski, senior VP-group client director investment and activation at MediaVest, said more of the agency's clients are looking to buy media in a similar fashion as well. "More and more of our clients are looking to place their message across multiple platforms. So it's not necessarily just about specific times and programs, but it was about delivering a message to Wendy's consumers across multiple channels," Mr. Arzewski said. "It's much more impactful for a consumer to receive that message when it's received across multiple platforms."
He said clients are realizing the importance of creating a disruption for their consumers during the course of the day. "It's all about creating a disruption and reaching consumers where they are engaging in their passion areas," Mr. Arzewski said. "The sum is much larger than the parts when it comes to delivering a message across multiple platforms."