Amid agency review, Buffalo Wild Wings tries some (literally) breakout work

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Buffalo Wild Wings_hedges_3x2
Buffalo Wild Wings_hedges_3x2 Credit: Buffalo Wild Wings

While the message of Buffalo Wild Wings newest campaign is far from new -- it's a place to watch football -- the wings, beer, sports chain is using a bit of a new approach to promote itself and says it may soon work with a new agency.

Buffalo Wild Wings "Escape to Football" campaign, breaking Thursday, features guys facing the same dilemma: each knows a football game is currently airing and wills himself to escape whatever mundane situation he is in.

For Buffalo Wild Wings, the campaign carries some big expectations. It's the first football season since Arby's paid $2.9 billion for Buffalo Wild Wings in February, placing a big bet on the chain's stronghold as a destination for watching sports while eating wings and drinking beer.

The "Escape to Football" ads are Buffalo Wild Wings' first work from Figliulo & Partners which for now is working with the chain on a project basis after TBWA/Chiat/Day handled the chain's March Madness work earlier this year. TBWA and F&P are part of a closed review that includes other shops that Buffalo Wild Wings aims to conclude by the end of the year.

The campaign is the chain's first work overseen by Jeff Baker, who joined Buffalo Wild Wings in July as VP of marketing and advertising after more than four years at Arby's. Buffalo Wild Wings also now has a chief marketing officer in Seth Freeman, who joined Aug. 22 after serving as head of global marketing for Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express at Intercontinental Hotels Group.

The chain has used a sense of humor and the idea of gathering with others to watch games at the restaurant before. Now, it is aiming to capture the idea of the anticipation of watching football.

There are four executions in the campaign, which includes four 30-second spots and two 15-second versions, as well as digital and radio work, and portray people enduring situations on days they would rather watch football.

In one set on a Sunday afternoon, a guy tasked with being the photographer at a family gathering is given directions by pretty much everyone in the photo and backs himself into a hedge.

In another spot set on a Monday evening, a man breaks through a ceiling to escape an ice-breaking exercise during a work meeting.

In a spot set on Thursday night, another prime football-watching time, a man slithers army-crawl style out of a faculty meeting. And on a Saturday afternoon, a guy stuck on a seemingly endless tour of his friends' new house plots his escape using the mattress from one of the bedrooms.

"I've personally been at a wedding shower during a Georgia football game," the alum says. He also knows Buffalo Wild Wings well, having handled the brand as a client while at agency 22squared before he joined Arby's in 2014.

Along with getting people into its restaurants to watch sports, it's possible Buffalo Wild Wings may try to lure them for sports betting. It's something the company is considering after a Supreme Court decision in May made it easier for states other than Nevada to have legal sports betting.

"As the largest sports bar in America, we believe Buffalo Wild Wings is uniquely positioned to leverage sports gaming to enhance the restaurant experience for our guests," Buffalo Wild Wings said in a statement. "We are actively exploring opportunities, including potential partners, as we evaluate the next steps for our brand."

Arby's Restaurant Group paid $2.9 billion for Buffalo Wild Wings in February. Both chains, along with smaller chain R Taco, are part of a company called Inspire Brands, which is majority-owned by private equity firm Roark Capital.

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