How the Famous Toastery Bowl came to be

Marketing Bites: With six weeks’ lead time, the regional breakfast-and-lunch chain pulled off the title sponsorship of a nationally televised college bowl game.
Famous Toastery Bowl
Famous Toastery pulled together a bowl sponsorship on six weeks' notice. | Photo courtesy: Famous Toastery
Marketing Bites

This is the story of how a 24-unit regional breakfast-and-lunch chain with a marketing staff of two pulled off the title sponsorship of a nationally televised college bowl game … on six weeks’ notice.

Stadium renovations forced the move of the 2023 Bahamas Bowl to Charlotte, N.C.—the home turf of Famous Toastery. The chain had recently inked a partnership with NASCAR driver (and 2021 Daytona 500 champ) Michael McDowell, who connected ESPN events with Famous Toastery, according to VP of Marketing Lorna Martinez.

And, thus, the Famous Toastery Bowl, which took place on Dec. 18 between Western Kentucky University and Old Dominion University at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, was born, complete with toast mascot racing at half time, the chain’s first TV ad, and WKU’s victory celebration that featured players with fistfuls of toast, making “toast angels” on the field and throwing slices of bread into the sky.

“We are a small bunch when it comes to Famous Toastery,” Martinez said. “You would think that a brand like this has, you know, at least some sort of division of PR or marketing. We’re a marketing team of two … We’re a small group but we all knew we would pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and make this happen. So, I think that’s the beauty of it. It felt like, all right, this is our underdog brand that could, the little engine that could … And, so, there was never a doubt in our minds that, you know, six weeks, let’s just get it done.”

Getting it done included a long punch list, one most sponsors take a year to complete. Among the tasks: Creating a media plan to announce the bowl game, preparing for the coin toss and half-time show, building a 30-second TV spot from scratch, creating a logo, writing radio ads, developing a social media strategy and, perhaps most importantly, figuring out how to capitalize on the Famous Toastery Bowl long after the stadium had emptied.

Famous Toastery Bowl players

The winning team of the Famous Toastery Bowl celebrates with piles of toast. | Photo courtesy: Famous Toastery

“The goal is franchise development,” Martinez said. “Bringing Famous Toastery to these other communities and getting that brand recognition, getting that brand curiosity for people who are not in our markets … I don’t want it to be kind of like ‘and we once did a bowl game.’ I want it to still feel pertinent and resonate with people, more of a validator of us in the space when it comes to franchise development.”

Famous Toastery made sure that all of the marketing materials it created for the bowl would be evergreen, so it would have a range of radio ads, TV spots and more that it could employ this year and next.

“So now we have that kind of toolbox and we have all those tools in the toolbox that we didn’t have before,” she said.

Martinez declined to say how much Famous Toastery spent on the sponsorship or its preparations.

Bowl watchers will likely recall that Famous Toastery wasn’t the only breakfast carb-hawker that sponsored a big game this season.

The inaugural Pop-Tarts Bowl generated a raft of memes thanks to its scene-stealing edible live mascot who emerged centerfield from a giant toaster.

For Famous Toastery’s part, sharing the toaster spotlight was just fine, Martinez said. People were tagging Famous Toastery on social media following the Pop-Tarts Bowl.

“We loved it,” she said. “And it benefited us in the sense that we were now part of a conversation that maybe we weren’t a part of, and reaching their audience … It all weaves together to help us a raise awareness and visibility in a fun, light-hearted way.”

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Restaurants have a hot opportunity to improve their reputation as employers

Reality Check: New mandates for protecting workers from dangerous on-the-job heat are about to be dropped on restaurants and other employers. The industry could greatly help its labor plight by acting first.


Some McDonald's customers are doubling up on the discounts

The Bottom Line: In some markets, customers can get the fast-food chain's $5 value meal for $4. The situation illustrates a key rule in the restaurant business: Customers are savvy and will find loopholes.


Ignore the Red Lobster problem. Sale-leasebacks are not all that bad

The decade-old sale-leaseback at the seafood chain has raised questions about the practice. But experts say it remains a legitimate financing option for operators when done correctly.


More from our partners