UFC locks up Boston Pizza for multi-year sponsorship

July 20, 2011  |  Chris Powell  |  Comments

The “Ground and Pound Burger” or the “Octagonal Pizza” may soon be headed for the menu at Boston Pizza.

The casual dining chain has entered into a “multi-year” sponsorship agreement with the world’s foremost mixed martial arts organization, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

The deal makes the national chain – which operates more than 340 restaurants coast to coast – an exclusive partner of UFC in Canada. According to the two parties, the deal will provide Boston Pizza patrons with an “enhanced UFC experience” that could potentially include in-restaurant appearances by UFC fighters as well as UFC-related menu items.

Boston Pizza has been showing UFC pay-per-view events in its restaurants for several years, its involvement with mixed martial arts increasing as fan interest in the sport explodes.

Speaking with Marketing Tuesday, Steve Silverstone, executive vice-president of marketing for Boston Pizza in Mississauga, Ont., described UFC as a perfect fit with the chain’s core target of “dads and dudes.”

“We’ve been working on developing a partnership with UFC for the six months, and were able to reach an agreement that makes sense for the franchisee community and, most importantly, provide added value for guests,” said Silverstone. “We’ve got the momentum of the Canadian UFC events behind us and we’re looking forward to a long-term partnership.”

Boston Pizza already has an extensive sports sponsorship strategy in place that includes partnerships with Hockey Canada as well as National Hockey League franchises in Western Canada. The restaurant chain has also worked with the National Football League through its ongoing association with both Molson and Labatt.

“If you’re going to run Canada’s largest sports bar coast-to-coast you have to be pretty active in sponsorship,” said Silverstone. “[UFC] is a great fit.” The deal was brokered by Boston Pizza’s sponsorship agency of record, Toronto-based S&E Sponsorship Group.

While UFC has North American marketing agreements in place with companies such as Anheuser-Busch, director of Canadian operations Tom Wright said Boston Pizza represents the first major marketing partnership for the organization in Canada.

“It’s a very unique partnership and one that I think is going to set the standard for sponsorship opportunities going forward, because it’s very creative, very unique and it allows us to come up with some very unique experiences for our fans,” said Wright. “That’s the kind of thing we’re looking for.”

UFC now has a presence in 45 U.S. states and seven Canadian provinces, having cracked the lucrative Ontario market in April with UFC 129 at the Rogers Centre – an event that Wright said marked a “coming of age” for UFC in Canada.

Wright, the former Canadian Football League commissioner who joined UFC in May 2010, characterized his first year with the organization as “a blast.”

“It’s a fine time in your career to have a chance to be part of a team that’s building a global brand, a global sport and a global business,” he said. “Those opportunities don’t come around all the time when you’re my age.”

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