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Outback Bowl taps social media to fuel football fans

Restaurant chain Outback Steakhouse is giving away free appetizers for viewers of its Outback Bowl and is promoting the effort via social media.

Outback’s efforts aim to drive traffic into its restaurants whether fans face a win or a loss. Offering free giveaways and promoting customer engagement via social media are likely to get customers’ attentions.

“Outback wanted social and they got it,” said Gary Schwartz, CEO of Impact Mobile, Toronto. “If you Google free appetizer, every coupon and deal aggregator is talking Outback.

“It is the standard retail repeat,” he said. “Give a discount offer in the old year to drive door swing in the New Year.

Football fun
Outback is driving awareness on social by using the hashtag #EveryoneWins.

In the Outback Bowl, the Auburn Tigers played the Wisconsin Badgers. If the Tigers had won the game, Outback was going to give free Bloomin’ Onion appetizers in its restaurants today. However, the Badgers barely slid by with a win, so Outback is giving out free Coconut Shrimp appetizers for the whole day.

The Badgers standings before the Outback Bowl were 10-3 and the team was ranked 17 in the AP and USA Today polls. The Tigers standings before the game were 8-4 and were ranked 19 in the polls. This year’s Outback Bowl was only be the fourth time these teams have played in more than 120 seasons of their football history.

On its mobile optimized Web site, Outback alerted customers of its efforts and provided a link for them to search for the nearest restaurant location to them. There was also a link to information about the Bowl’s events. Outback even provided a link for customers to buy tickets to the game.

Furthermore, Outback told fans to tune into the game and watch for which appetizer would be unlocked.

While Tigers and Badgers fans were most likely to tune into the game to watch their teams, Outback, being the sponsor of the bowl game, wanted to stay present in the conversation. Giveaways are an effective way to drive conversion, and centering the idea of the giveaway around the event, in this case the game, makes the effort relative.

Outback did a similar giveaway last year. The LSU Tigers played the Iowa Hawkeyes in last year’s Outback Bowl. The Tigers won, therefore awarding Outback restaurant customers with free Bloomin’ Onion appetizers.

Prioritizing mobile
In addition to maintaining a strong social presence, Outback is also a leader in mobile in its industry.

Earlier this year, Outback Steakhouse claimed to be the only national restaurant chain to offer mobile access to real-time data about wait times for tables, reflecting how smartphones are innovating customer experiences.

Outback Steakhouse is streamlining the reservations and waiting process for consumers with Click Thru Seating, available on Outback’s 365 mobile application and online. The strategy was driven by a survey that found consumers sometimes wait 40 minutes to be seated (see story).

Prioritizing the mobile channel in its marketing efforts has proven to be successful for Outback.

In 2013, a Bloomin’ Brands executive at the MMA Forum said that its foursquare campaign in Richmond that was part of a marketing program with NASCAR resulted in more than 600 check-ins and is likely to be rolled out nationwide based on its success.

During the “Location – The Key to Conversion in the Mobile Path to Purchase” session, executives from Diageo, Universal McCann, Carat and Bloomin’ Brands spoke about what works and does not work when using location-based advertising to drive in-store traffic and sales. Chad Hickey, vice president of sales at xAd, New York, moderated the session (see story).

“The gamification spin of an Auburn win equals free onions and Badgers equals free shrimp means a win-win door crasher for the franchise,” Mr. Schwartz said.

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York