Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Cheesecake Factory Scores a Sports Celebrity Endorsement

Successful dining chain The Cheesecake Factory doesn't advertise, but relies on word-of-mouth and social media to spread the word from its happy customers.  But when the chain found out that one of those customers was Polish tennis star Agnieszka Radwanska, currently ranked third in the world, they decided to do more than allow her to cut the line when she visits (which is all her management representative was seeking when he contacted the company). 

Radwanska, who is known for tweeting her love for dining at The Cheesecake Factory during her travels to tennis tournaments, will now wear the restaurant chain's logo on her visor when she plays, and becomes a celebrity spokesperson for the well-liked restaurants.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
Sports Business Journal

Link to article:

Excerpt: "'We hope it spurs conversation about, "What is that restaurant doing on her visor,’” said Donald Evans, the company’s chief marketing officer. 'The answer is, she is one of our biggest fans.'

The endorsement grew from social media, which will play a major role in promoting the ties between the Polish star and the American outlet. For years, Radwanska, now the third-ranked player in the world and who reached the 2012 Wimbledon final, has tweeted her enthusiasm for The Cheesecake Factory when touring in the United States. (Outside of the brand’s 181 U.S. locations, there are three Middle Eastern outlets owned by franchisees.)

Six months ago, one of her representatives at Lagardère Unlimited, Drew LeMesurier, cold-called the company — but not for a deal.

'Initially, I wanted to get her VIP treatment at one of the restaurants,' said LeMesurier, director of talent marketing for Lagardère. That meant cutting the waiting lines the restaurants frequently boast, and maybe some gift cards.

It’s not an uncommon request; just ask Evans. Celebrities ranging from Justin Bieber to David Spade, and past and present NBA players such as Shaquille O’Neal and James Harden, are well known acolytes of the menu’s 250 offerings. 'We help them out when they go to our restaurants,' Evans said.

So why did Radwanska land an endorsement deal with the company — a multiyear pact totaling six figures — when there are so many other celebrity customers? Indeed, the Celebrity DBI, which measures potential endorser popularity for corporate customers, does not rank Radwanska. 'We have data on 1,100 athletes,' said Kathy Gardner, a spokesperson for DBI, a unit of Repucom. 'These are determined primarily by client request, and no one has asked for her yet.'

Part of the answer draws from a long tradition in golf and tennis endorsements: the marketing people like the sport. Evans, who handled the deal himself, admits he is a tennis fan who played the sport competitively in high school, so when LeMesurier’s call came, he took it."

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