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Slim Chickens tries to crack the student-athlete partnership code

Marketing Bites: A year after chains could hire college athletes for marketing deals, the chicken brand is launching a five-athlete council; plus more marketing news of the week.
Slim Chickens
Photograph: Shutterstock
Marketing Bites

Welcome to RB’s weekly roundup of the latest developments in restaurant marketing.

It’s been just about a year since the NCAA adopted a policy that allowed college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness in marketing partnerships.

And restaurant chains have spent the last year figuring out how to get the most value from those so-called NIL deals.

Chains from Chipotle Mexican Grill to Bojangles to Hooters have gotten in on the NIL action.

Chicken tender-and-wings chain Slim Chickens was also an early entrant into the new marketing channel.

But now it is refining its approach, launching a five-athlete Student Athlete Council at the University of Arkansas that it hopes will allow it to reach more future customers and do more community outreach as a brand.

“Last July, when the gates flew open, everybody could do something—they just didn’t know what to do,” said Slim Chickens CMO Chris Allison. “Like all marketers, we’re trying to figure out how this really works from a marketing standpoint.”

Heading Slim Chickens’ new council is Bumper Pool, an Arkansas Razorbacks linebacker and grad student who was the first NIL partner for the 152-unit chicken chain last year. Also in the group is MaKayla Daniels, a woman’s basketball player; Jensen Scalzo, a gymnast; and Ayden Owens and Britton Wilson, both members of the track and field team.

Slim Chickens has one location on the Arkansas campus and nine stores in the northwestern part of the state, near campus.

“We want in-roads into the college community and an understanding of what it is they’re looking for from brands,” Allison said.

Having student-athlete representatives from a range of sports should draw the interest of more students, he said, and will help give the brand a better sense of what the community is looking for. For example, the students will help guide the chain toward philanthropic outlets in the area.

Plus, it allows the brand to always have athlete spokespeople, even while one student is busy at the height of their athletic season, he said.

The student-athletes are compensated for their time (which includes monthly council meetings, regular social media posts and more) with money and free food.

Slim Chickens has locations on five college campuses and is hoping this University of Arkansas council might be a way to have a more-robust presence at other universities, Allison said.

“We’d like to take this as our playbook and take that to other campuses around the country,” he said.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams launches rewards program

Am I writing this mostly as a reminder to myself? Maybe.

But hopefully a few of you are interested, too.

Artisan ice cream chain Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is launching its first rewards program (Jeni’s Splendid Rewards. Because, of course.)

Perhaps most importantly, though, it is kicking off the new program with free scoops for all rewards members on the first day of summer (June 21) from 7 p.m. until close at its more than 60 scoop shops nationwide.

Rewards members earn one point for every $1 spent, with $5 in rewards for every 100 points.

Columbus, Ohio-based Jeni’s says members will soon be able to score early access to new flavors, giveaways, special events and more.

Delivery of those Jeni’s pints kept me and my kids going in the darkest days of the pandemic when we couldn’t leave the house, so I’ll be first in line for my scoop of Gooey Butter Cake.


Domino’s is bringing back its “boost week” promo.

KFC hopes rapper Jack Harlow will help it sell more chicken.

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