Sysco is adding a new ingredient to its business model:
national TV advertising. The food distribution giant is launching a campaign
with Food Network to build better relationships with its restaurant and
institutional customers and to generate consumer awareness about the $42
billion company, which is generally not well known outside the food industry.
With networks occupying unique categories-home, travel,
food-Scripps Networks Interactive has a long list of endemic advertisers that
don't do much business with other channels. Sysco is the latest example of a
client that sees Food Network as the primary network it must be on.
Sysco will be the sponsor of Food Network's Restaurant
Impossible series and has signed the show's chef host, Robert Irvine, as a
spokesman. Sysco will be integrated into episodes of the show, and Scripps has
also created short-form videos that will appear online.
Bill Goetz, senior VP for marketing at Sysco, says the
company had a gut feel that Food Network was the right place to deliver its
message, but decided to do some research as well. A survey of 350 Sysco customers
found that 70% watch Food Network at least once a week. They use the network to
keep up to date on trends and to identify new menu ideas.
"When we saw the research, we realized there was an
opportunity for us to create a great association with Food Network that could
help our business," Goetz says.
Sysco had not done national consumer advertising before and
had a consultant reach out to the network.
"What we try to do with any marketing partnership
conversation is to find a sub-brand within the networks that makes sense," says
Karen Grinthal, Food Network senior VP for ad sales. "Restaurant Impossible
seems like a really solid fit because it's very aligned with the objectives
that they have."
Goetz agrees: "We've got 7,000 marketing associates, which
are really our sales reps, out there every day, trying to make our customers
successful. And that's really what Chef Irvine does in Restaurant Impossible."
Once Goetz discovered that Irvine uses Sysco products and
services in his own restaurants, he says, "I just thought this was a great
combination: Food Network, Restaurant Impossible and a celebrity chef
who already believes in us."
"It's not just about the check we're writing to him to get him on board," Goetz
adds. "He's been on board for the last 15 years. It all just came together and
seemed like such a natural fit for us."
Sysco's campaign begins in February. One 30-second
commercial is directed at consumers. "It's basically that we're providing the
ingredients for success that help these restaurants provide these great meals
every day," Goetz says. Two other 30-second spots speak more directly to chefs,
restaurant owners and food-service managers and feature Irvine.
"It's all about the fact that Sysco is the resource that you
need to be successful," Goetz says. The spots feature the tagline "Good Things
Come From Sysco."
Sysco reps are integrated into two episodes of Restaurant
Impossible, with one highlighting Sysco's product quality and the other
discussing the company's inventory management technology.
Sysco is also running two sweepstakes, one for its customers
and one for consumers. The top prize in the customer contest is a visit by Chef
Irvine, who can either offer advice to the restaurant or make a public
appearance to build restaurant traffic. The consumer sweepstakes offers the
winner a trip to New York's Food and Wine Festival in October and a visit
behind the scenes at Food Network.
Sysco plans to measure the campaign's impact and will be
looking at consumer and customer awareness and preferences. "Our awareness
numbers with our direct customers [are] pretty high, so it will be more whether
our association [with Food Network] changes the perception of our brand," Goetz
says. Consumer awareness will start out low, but Goetz hopes that over the long
term, it will build and become important to Sysco's customers.
Goetz says Sysco is making a "significant commitment" to the
campaign, but declined to share dollar figures. "In our industry, Sysco does
everything first and then the competition typically follows, so we don't want
to divulge that at this point," he says. "I'm pretty confident this is the
right thing for our company and that we'll continue to evolve this program. And
this is just the start of us really building an association with Food Network, Restaurant
Impossible and Chef Irvine."
Adding a new client in a new category is exciting for Food
Network. "The well never runs dry," Grinthal says. "We're really proud that
with what started out as a consultant calling to get information, we were able
to put a program together that spoke so well to their needs that this whole
company is behind it."
Grinthal also says she believes this is only the
beginning: "We have many instances of success in the past where the needle has
moved substantially by just advertising with our brands. And so this will be in
our next upfront as one of the success stories of 2013."