Buffalo Wild Wings CMO Seth Freeman departs after less than two years
Buffalo Wild Wings is looking for a new chief marketing officer after the departure of Seth Freeman, who held the role for less than two years.
Parent company Inspire Brands confirmed Freeman's departure, saying it was his choice to leave. Freeman could not be immediately reached for comment.
“Seth departed Buffalo Wild Wings this past month, and we thank him for the great passion he brought to the brand every day and for his leadership over the past two years,” Buffalo Wild Wings President Lyle Tick said in a statement. “The process for hiring a new CMO has begun, and we will share an update when a selection is made.”
Buffalo Wild Wings is interviewing external candidates, Inspire Brands said.
All restaurants have been under pressure during the coronavirus pandemic. At Buffalo Wild Wings, there’s an added layer of stress as it counts on people gathering to dine and drink during sporting events. Buffalo Wild Wings became an official NCAA corporate partner in 2013 and annually expects the March Madness basketball tournament to draw a crowd. But March Madness was canceled this year due to COVID-19 and the dearth of major sporting events persists.
The chain has also commented, jokingly, on the difficulty of the year.
Buffalo Wild Wings was the 22nd largest U.S. restaurant chain in 2019, with systemwide sales down 0.1 percent to nearly $3.67 billion, according to data from Technomic. In the fall, visits to Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants were rising, marking a reversal from a couple of years prior, Freeman told Ad Age on the sidelines of the Association of National Advertisers’ Masters of Marketing conference in October.
Then the pandemic took hold, putting significant pressure on the chain’s business. Buffalo Wild Wings in March began promoting the idea that “Sports Live On” with videos showing people doing their own sporty moves at home. “We’re a brand that connects people over their shared love of sports,” Freeman said in a statement in late March. In recent weeks, the chain has been trying to engage with sports fans including with a “Fansus”—its sporty take on the census—and by delivering food to some of the men in the NFL draft, who promoted the brand on social media.
Inspire Brands bought Buffalo Wild Wings in February 2018 and Freeman was hired as the chain’s CMO in August of that year. Prior to Buffalo Wild Wings, Freeman was most recently head of global brand and commercial performance for Holiday Inn at Intercontinental Hotels Group. Earlier in his career he worked at Coca-Cola Co., including as senior brand manager for Gold Peak Tea.
Buffalo Wild Wings hired The Martin Agency on creative and Mindshare for media in 2018 ahead of a brand relaunch in 2019 that included the "Buffalo Wild Wings, roar!" tagline.
Buffalo Wild Wings does not release quarterly results but its sports bar-style restaurants are under significant pressure with the lack of live sports and other major events that often draw crowds. But Wingstop, a chicken wings competitor that does a larger percentage of takeout business than Buffalo Wild Wings, thrived during the pandemic. Wingstop’s U.S. same-store sales rose more than 30 percent in April, far exceeding even its own expectations, the company said in May.