Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q said it recently cut a one-year deal with Minor League Baseball to sponsor 10 teams in a move designed to boost sales in key company markets in six Southern states.
The friendly atmosphere and reasonable price of attending a minor league games made for a good sponsorship match between Sonny’s and Minor League Baseball, said Monique Yeager, director of public relations for the casual-dining barbecue chain.
“The demographic is a perfect match for us,” Yeager said from the chain’s headquarters in Maitland, Fla.
More than half of Sonny’s 128 units are in the same markets as the 10 participating minor league teams in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama.
A state-by-state breakdown of the teams and the number of Sonny’s units in those teams’ markets:
- Florida: Brevard County Manatees in Viera (5 locations); Clearwater Threshers (27); Jacksonville Suns (15); and St. Lucie Mets in Port St. Lucie (3)
- Georgia: Gwinnett Braves (8); and Rome Braves (2)
- Alabama: Mobile BayBears (CQ) (2)
- Kentucky: Lexington Legends (4)
- Mississippi: Mississippi Braves in Jackson (2)
- North Carolina: Charlotte Knights (8)
Sonny’s said it hopes to build customer traffic in those markets through game ticket stub discounts and promotional bouncebacks. Team players also will make appearances at local Sonny’s franchises.
In addition, Sonny’s will be a barbecue vendor at the St. Lucie Mets games.
Franchisees did not pay an extra cost for the sponsorship deal, said James McNab Jr., who owns six Sonny’s restaurants on Florida’s east coast, within the Brevard County Manatees’ market.
“Anything that benefits the brand will benefit the franchisees as a whole,” he said.
Rick Thomas, a Sonny’s operator with four units in the Lexington, Ky., market, said it’s too expensive to partner with Major League Baseball, NASCAR or the Southeast Conference in college sports, but a deal between a regional restaurant chain and Minor League Baseball is financially viable.
“Barbecue and baseball go together,” said Thomas, who noted that his Sonny’s restaurants will give a free meal to any youth in a baseball uniform who is accompanied by an adult.
In Jacksonville, Fla., the minor league Suns will give 60 tickets to local Sonny’s restaurants to distribute for Sunday home games, said Ken Kirkpatrick, owner of 16 Sonny’s restaurants in Florida, including seven in Jacksonville.
“We can cross-promote and drive traffic to each others’ houses, so to speak,” Kirkpatrick said.
The deal does not include Sonny’s signs at the ballparks, but Sonny’s does get public address announcements, radio mentions, and an online and team newsletter presence, said Rod Meadows, vice president of sales and marketing for Minor League Baseball, which is based in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Contact Alan Snel at [email protected].