October is the busiest time of the year at Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Company. With a nip in the air and football on everyone’s minds, people are gathering to watch their favorite teams play their favorite sports. At Oggi’s, our focus is on the San Diego Chargers of the NFL. On any given Sunday, Qualcomm Stadium is hosting upwards of 70,000 fans and untold millions on TV and radio. As the Official Pizza of the Chargers, Oggi’s is conducting product sampling in the stands, branding with our signage and advertising with our TV and radio game spots. The market that we are exposed to includes the 21 million people throughout Southern California where the Chargers play and Oggi’s has stores.
The Chargers are just one element, or level, of sports involvement where Oggi’s becomes a local partner. While we are focusing the most attention on the NFL team, we are also tuned in to the wonderful crowd of University of Southern California fans that are crowded into our store in Orange, or to our fans and alumni from Florida State who have called Tustin Oggi’s their home (“Watch Party Headquarters,” they like to say) for many years. Saturdays have turned into college football heaven at all of the Oggi’s stores spread throughout Southern California.
Interestingly enough, Friday days and nights also have ebb and flow at this time of year, as Tustin High School and Mater Dei High School play their local games and then retreat to the Tustin Oggi’s, their sponsor for many sports activities. Sales surge dramatically after a home game and are also supported by the pizza that we sell at the local high school stadium. The same holds true for the local Pop Warner football team that meets once a week at Oggi’s; parents of the players can relax and have a cold microbrewed beer and hot gourmet pizza while bonding with their sons and their friends.
October sales throughout the Oggi’s chain are significantly higher than any other month of the year. In October we are at full throttle with football, hockey (Anaheim Ducks) and, typically, the Major League Baseball playoffs and the World Series. Sales during the other months of the year are also strong, but they are the strongest during October when we co-brand with local partners at all levels. In July and August, sales get a boost from our sponsorship of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. Just as it does at Qualcomm Stadium, Oggi’s operates a concession at the Del Mar racetrack. The track attracts people from all over Southern California and our presence there allows us to co-brand with another sport besides the most-viewed ones, making us truly a “sports-themed” restaurant and brewpub.
Co-Branding with our local partners can take us to new levels of involvement with our marketplace. As a for-instance, we partner all year long with the local schools, where we deliver “Student of the Month” certificates to the teachers so that they can hand out a perk in the classroom. In Tustin, we donated a free pizza to everyone who makes the honor roll at the neighborhood school. Our involvement also includes Little League “Player of the Week” certificates and similar certificates for local youth soccer players.
In each case, our co-branding allows our name to be associated with the team of school we’re sponsoring. This type of association builds a relationship between the participants and our brand. All of these things are very popular and provide powerful incentives for people to want to visit our stores, even without a push from a “free” certificate or some other offer.
In fact one of our most successful programs was with LaDainian Tomlinson when he was with the Chargers. It was the year that he was names MVP of the NFL and we were lucky enough to have him as our corporate spokesperson. That year we teamed up with LaDainian and raise money for his local charity by selling “LT” discount cards. This promotion was one that we ran through each of our stores, mounting sales contests for the servers and pitting store versus store. The deal was simple: For $25, we would sell a card that had six to eight different discounts on it. Of course, there was a big one that was used as “bait”—such as “one free medium cheese pizza” which could then be redeemed without any other purchase. The other offers were “$5 off any large pizza” or “free dessert with the purchase of any entrée.”
These are just examples of what became a very successful promotion for all of the Oggi’s stores. We were we co-branding with a famous sports legend and we were doing a good deed—all while we promoted our business.
The pizza Industry is very crowded. There are many entrants in this industry, and to be quite honest, it is very difficult to differentiate yourself from everyone else. Co-branding with your local partners and teams is a solid strategy for both the big chains or the independents. Not only is it great for business, it’s also a lot of fun.
See George Hadjis at International Pizza Expo® / Click Here to Register for Expo
George Hadjis, founder and CEO of 16-unit Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing, will provide the details and answer questions about his company’s successful forays into community partnerships during his seminar at Pizza Expo 2012. He’ll also appear in a panel discussion during pre-Expo programming on Monday featuring the $2 Million Club, operators whose pizzerias generate $2 million-plus per unit.