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Buffalo Wild Wings reveals a big step in its turnaround plan—a new marketing campaign

Photograph courtesy of Buffalo Wild Wings, YouTube.com

Buffalo Wild Wings is changing its advertising, tweaking its menu and collaborating with an online betting service as part of a comprehensive new marketing campaign, the troubled operator’s first under new owner Inspire Bands.

The initiatives mark the first coordinated effort by Inspire to pull customers back to its $2.9 billion acquisition. Every component is tied to the football season, with start dates in early September.

New TV commercials play off the tagline, “Escape to football,” with humorous depictions of young men breaking out of brain-numbing situations to enjoy the excitement of strutting into a Buffalo Wild Wings. In one spot, an apparent millennial climbs onto a conference table during a business meeting, pushes aside a ceiling tile and shimmies his way out of the room as the participants are sharing “fun facts” about themselves as ice breakers (“My fun fact is that I still have my wisdom teeth,” beams one. “My name is Gary, and I have a dog that’s also named Gary,” volunteers another.) 

The next scene shows the escapee strutting into a Buffalo Wild Wings as if he were walking into a football stadium, with the crowd inside roaring a warm welcome.

The commercials are Buffalo Wild Wings’ first new advertising in 18 months, according to Inspire. Dissatisfaction with past campaigns were among the factors that pushed shareholders to demand a sale of Buffalo Wild Wings last year.

Several components of the new campaign pivot on Buffalo Wild Wings’ new partnership with DraftKings, an online betting service for fans of fantasy football. As part of the arrangement, dine-in guests will be able to pick fantasy football teams via Buffalo Wild Wings’ digital app. Teams can be chosen before the start of virtual games at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. ET every Sunday, and then revised at halftime. Picking winning squads can earn the guest such prizes as gift cards, loyalty program points and free chicken wings for a year.

No cash changes hands for those contests; participation is free, and payoffs are in the form of prizes. As part of the partnership with DraftKings, Buffalo Wild Wings will be sponsoring the online betting service’s Thursday Night Showdown fantasy games, where participants can win up to $10,000.

The Blazin’ Fantasy Football program is slated to start Sept. 9 and run through Dec. 10.

By the time that component of the campaign begins, Buffalo Wild Wings will have introduced what it’s calling the $5 Football Menu, though it acknowledges that some of the options are priced higher. It includes 32-ounce pitchers of domestic beers, as well as bargain-priced craft brews, cocktails, a cheeseburger and fries, and a brat and fries. The casual chain has been struggling to find ways of steering patrons away from bone-in chicken wings, one of its costlier items, to items providing a better margin.

Buffalo Wild Wings has acknowledged that it’s investigating the possibility of offering sports betting to customers, but has not revealed details.

Earlier this week, the chain announced the appointment of hotel-industry veteran Seth Freeman as CMO, a new position for the brand.

Buffalo Wild Wings has not revealed sales results since being acquired by Inspire, a holding of private-equity firm Roark Capital. But a publicly owned franchisee, Diversified Restaurant Holdings, posted a 6.4% decline in same-store sales for the second quarter

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