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Fast-food chains are dreaming of market share gains as they unleash big promotions for the critical summer selling season.

While McDonald's Corp. hypes basketball's Dream Team 2, Subway Sandwich & Salad Shops wants to mesmerize consumers with its $10 million "Subway Dream Game" integrated promotion-Subway's biggest-ever marketing effort.

Almost every fast-food chain has a plastic toy or cup up its sleeve. Burger King Corp. is tying in with Walt Disney Co.'s "The Lion King," already projected as a summer blockbuster movie, while Domino's Pizza pairs with Blockbuster Video, and PepsiCo subsidiary Pizza Hut kicks off several soccer-theme promotions in domestic and foreign markets. In addition to a giveaway of Larami Corp.'s Super Soaker squirt guns, Hardee's is using the summer to introduce its new Choice Values program.

The key: getting the attention of vacationers, and kids and teens who aren't eating school lunches. Summertime fast-food sales are becoming more important than ever to fast-feeders, having grown in the past three years to 27% of industry sales.

"People are out and about in the summer, and they have a lot of choices," said restaurant consultant Ron Paul of Technomic, Chicago. "Promotions are a way to capture market share, to be sure people come in to your restaurant."

Subway's "Dream Game" breaks in June. Created by Hal Riney & Partners Heartland, Chicago, it awards one lucky customer the chance to start his own small business. Subway will give the winner a check for $100,000, along with advice on the ins and outs of entrepreneurship from Fred DeLuca, Subway's down-to-earth founder and president.

A peel-off drink sticker awards customers a whole litany of prizes, supplied by various tie-in partners.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer will help sponsor a trip to Australia for the world premiere of "Blown Away," an action picture starring Tommy Lee Jones and Jeff Bridges. Ramada Inn and Continental Airlines are teaming up to offer a two-week vacation for two to any U.S. destination. Bally's Health Clubs supplies a one-year membership plus use of a personal trainer.

Two TV spots incorporating the "dream" theme break the first week of June during the NBA finals. In 15- and 30-second spots, a Subway franchisee swings a watch to "hypnotize" the TV audience into dreaming about the prizes.

The "Dream Game" is much more elaborate than Subway's 1992 summer effort, which doled out coupons for free menu items, said Kevin Miller, VP-management supervisor at Riney.

Subway has rapidly expanded in the past several years to 8,500 U.S. locations, second only to McDonald's 9,300 domestic units. In the past four years, Subway's ad budget has also soared, from just $2 million to an estimated $30 million to $35 million.

At No. 1 McDonald's, after big tie-ins with World Cup soccer and Universal Pictures' "The Flintstones" subside, the chain will blitz consumers with July's Dream Team 2 campaign.

Preceding Dream Team 2's participation in August's World Championship of Basketball in Toronto, McDonald's will issue a dozen collector cups featuring team players including Shaquille O'Neal and Dominique Wilkins, said an executive close to the promotion.

DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, handles McDonald's promotion-related advertising. The agency wouldn't comment on the basketball promotion, but supporting TV spots are expected to break in mid-July.

Meanwhile, Hardee's Food Systems will use the summer months to introduce its new value menu. Choice Values is a permanent program, offering 99 cent sandwiches and $1.99 combination meals.

In supporting TV spots, Joan Rivers and Regis Philbin star alongside the Hardee's Girls-four genial senior citizen spokeswomen created by new agency Deutsch, New York, which won the $80 million account late last year. The women visit the talk show hosts in two separate 30-second spots, crowing about Hardee's new value.

Though Hardee's is late to the value battle, Exec VP-Marketing Jerry Gramaglia said he believes the chicken menu items offered as Choice Values will attract customers who are "burned out on burgers."

Attempting to convert those same consumers of burgers, Domino's Pizza will help sponsor Blockbuster Video's World Game Championship in July and serve as title sponsor for the World Wrestling Federation's Summer Slam pay-per-view event in August.

Using boxtoppers, Domino's will help recruit teen-agers to compete in regional videogame competitions, to be held at Blockbuster stores. Domino's will provide free pizza to the teens competing on Sega and Nintendo games; the national championship will take place in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Grey Advertising, New York, handles ads and promotion for Domino's.

Jeff Jensen contributed to this story.

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