BrandIndex's Friday column in Brandweek: chicken wings, Southern Comfort & beer

Chicken Wing Chains Battle Over Football Fans

Oct 8, 2010

Looks like chicken wings are the unofficial food of the football season, supported by the numerous promotions recently launched by restaurant chains. In its latest report, YouGov examined the satisfaction scores of three wing chains since early August, zeroing in on men 18 to 49.

The Brandweek BrandIndex Report by YouGov is a weekly consumer perception report that analyzes the most talked about brands based on buzz: The scores are based on weighing positive and negative perceptions of a brand. A +100 score is positive, a -100 score is negative, and a rating of zero means that the score is neutral. This week's report also measures satisfaction (whether consumers are pleased with a brand) and index (overall indicator of brand health).

YouGov interviews 5,000 people each weekday from a representative U.S. population sample. Respondents are drawn from an online panel of 1.5 million individuals.

The report spotlights:

• Budweiser
• Chicken wing chains
• Southern Comfort

Wing Chains Step Up Marketing Efforts
According to the National Chicken Council, 1.25 billion wings were consumed during the last Super Bowl weekend. So it's easy to see why restaurant chains have started marketing more aggressively to football fans.

Buffalo Wild Wings rolled out its “Pick’em Challenge” to predict NFL game results. Meanwhile, Southern chain Krystal introduced Game Time Wings as a permanent menu item and set out on a six-city sampling tour. Then there's Hooters, which promotes its wings all year long.

BWW ended August with scores in the 60s and 70s—well ahead of its rivals. But the chain has since tumbled significantly. In mid-September, BWW crossed paths with the surging satisfaction scores of Krystal. Krystal is the success story of the football season, propelling itself out of negative satisfaction scores in August (as low as -9.8) to its current score of 36.

At present, BWW has bounced modestly to a score of 46.3, just ahead of Krystal. Hooters began August leading Krystal with a 23.6 score, but has tapered off during the past two months and is now standing at 12.8.

Bud 'Happy Hour' Giveaway Disappoints
Anheuser Busch’s free Budweiser giveaway on Sept. 29, as part of a “National Happy Hour” promotion, didn't help the brand's perception. Budweiser barely moved its index score (which measures quality, value, reputation, satisfaction, impression and willingness to recommend) for adults 21-29.

The lack of sizzle is a snapshot of the perception issues facing large beer brands such as Budweiser, Coors and Miller—all tracking at zero or below zero when it comes to index scores. Bud sales were down 9 percent last year and are expected to stay the same this year.

Bucking the trend are the craft and niche beers, which may not have the massive distribution as the larger brands, but their marketing tactics have earned them high index scores in the prized male demo. For example, Samuel Adams and Dos Equis have been hovering in the 50s and 30s index range, respectively. Both took 10-point jumps once football season began.

Southern Comfort Returns to TV
Brown-Forman’s Southern Comfort rolled out its first TV campaign in two years, promoting a new lime liqueur brand and reintroducing the name to its target 21-24 demo. The 15-second spots appeared on many male-focused networks, including ESPN, ESPN2, Spike and Comedy Central, as well as on entertainment networks. In addition to TV, Southern Comfort launched digital, social media and in-store ads.

So far, the campaign seems be catching on. Southern Comfort’s buzz score for adults 21-24 jumped from zero in early September to 11.9 in October. The brand surpassed the spirits sector average by mid-September.