In January, Buffalo Wild Wings announced that it had partnered with the NCAA to become the “Official Hangout of March Madness” and that it had garnered marketing rights related to the NCAA’s other 88 championships. On the eve of the tournament’s first games, Kathy Benning, Buffalo Wild Wings’ executive vice president of global marketing, brand and business development, took time to explain why the popular restaurant chain wanted to engage in a formal partnership with the NCAA and how the values of both organizations align.
Why did Buffalo Wild Wings decide to partner with the NCAA?
Sports are in our DNA at Buffalo Wild Wings and we have a deep heritage in college athletics. We’re always looking for ways to enhance the game-day experience for sports fans in our restaurants. Aligning with top sports properties, such as the NCAA, allows us to deepen our engagement with our guests.
Why are sports such an important platform for Buffalo Wild Wings?
From our early days in Columbus, Ohio – home of The Ohio State University – sports have helped define Buffalo Wild Wings, and it continues to be one of the core elements of our success. Sports are inherently a social experience and we have become a destination for sports fans who want to enjoy the game with their friends and family. It’s really part of who we are.
What has Buffalo Wild Wings has done to support education?
Core to our vision of community giving is the idea that there is a champion in every child. That, along with our passion for sports, is what led to our Team Up for Kids initiative. It is designed to help build communities where all kids can thrive, compete and belong to a team. Our belief is that sports help build life skills that will help kids succeed in all aspects of their lives.
We fund scholarships to high school seniors who are pursuing careers in the culinary field, and also have donated money to help promote, educate and develop high school students to be future leaders in the hospitality industry.
Does Buffalo Wild Wings have any plans for the tournament? What can customers expect?
This is one of our busiest times of the year, and we always look for opportunities to engage with our guests. We have a mobile and online game that features augmented reality and allows guests to get in on the hoops action, and have an opportunity to win weekly prizes and a trip to next year’s Final Four.
What does Buffalo Wild Wings envision for the future in terms of visibility at NCAA championships and/or fan events?
We look forward to working with the NCAA to develop creative and marketing activations across the many NCAA Championships throughout the year. We’re always looking for new ways to engage with our Guests and we know college sports offer us a great opportunity to do just that.
How does partnering with the NCAA help Buffalo Wild Wings reach its goals?
As Buffalo Wild Wings continues to grow across the United States and around the world, sports will remain at our core. We believe that fundamental to our growth is that we provide a unique sports-viewing experience. Our NCAA partnership is an authentic way for us to enhance experience for our guests.