Popeyes wants to wing it in a TV venue typically reserved for selling pizza and beer.
Viewers of CBS’ February 11 broadcast of Super Bowl LVIII will in the first quarter see the first Big Game commercial in the restaurant chain’s history – all aimed at getting the crowd to have a hankering for chicken wings rather than something else. Popeye’s will announce that five different flavors of wings will become permanent items on the menu and make an intriguing proposition: patrons can get a free order of 6-piece wings at participating restaurants in the USA and Canada if a football team that has wings in its name, logo, or on its mascot wins the Super Bowl
“If you’re going to do something to be part of the Super Bowl, you want to have something relevant to say,” notes Sami Siddiqui, president of Popeye’s U.S. operations, during an interview.
A 30-second ad from Popeyes and its agency, McKinney, is expected to appear in the first quarter of the game, where it will likely have to work to stand apart from a bevy of food-and-beverage rivals. Anheuser-Busch InBev, one of the biggest sponsors of the Super Bowl, usually runs a few commericals during that time period. Meanwhile, Yum Brands’ Pizza Hut is known to stake out the pre-game show, where it urges viewers to order pizza before the gridiron spectacular gets underway.
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At least one favorite Super Bowl food isn’t in the lineup this year. Avocados from Mexico, often used to make guacamole, has announced its exit from the 2024 advertising roster. CBS, which sold out of national commercial inventory, had sought between $6.5 million and $7 million for a 30-second ad, according to people familiar with negotiations. Siddiqui declined to comment on how much Popeyes paid for its first-quarter placement or on the creative concept that audiences will see.
Getting 30 seconds in the Big Game took more than three years.
“We knew that wings was the fastest growing category in chicken,” says Siddiqui, “We have seen the success of competitors in the market.” But Popeyes “needed to make sure it was right,” he says, testing concepts. When the chain tested Ghost Pepper Wings in 2023 on a limited basis, executives planned to sell the product for six to eight weeks, but “sold out in two,” says Sidiqui, “We knew we had something special.”
Other restaurant chains have tested similar tactics at the Super Bowl. In 2009, Denny’s offered Super Bowl viewers a free Grand Slam breakfast on the Tuesday following the game.
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Popeye’s got its start in fried chicken, but became better known in some parts of the country for its cajun seasonings and New Orleans flavors and side dishes. The company launched a massive salvo among chicken competitors when it debuted a chicken sandwich in 2019 in a bid to take on Chick-fil-A. The product gained viral traction and Popeyes was sold out in its early days of offering the product. The momentum gained from the chicken sandwich, says Siddiqui, gave Popeyes confidence it could fare well at the Super Bowl.
In addition to Ghost Pepper, the new wings are also available in Sweet ‘N Spicy, Honey BBQ, Roasted Garlic Parmesan, and Signature Hot variations. Siddiqui believes the fact that Popeyes fans can get wings delivered will add to their appeal.
“This is a long-term game for us,” says Siddiqui.
We are going to continue to grow this, innovate with sauces. We hope that the wings really take flight during the Super Bowl.
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This article is written by Brian Steinberg from Variety and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the DiveMarketplace by Industry Dive. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].