By Barry Janoff
Janaury 4, 2017: NFL legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice knows a lot about catching footballs.
Now he’s out to share his knowledge about better ways to eat and enjoy chicken.
In its first campaign with an athlete/celebrity endorser, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen is featuring Rice in a series of spots that show off not only the brand’s product but faux inventions intended to enhance the experience.
Among the imaginary goods, all demonstrated by Rice: napkin shirts, spicy and mild toothpicks, wing skewers, a biscuit cushion, taste mask, sauce dome, screen guard playbook, a phone kickstand and wing gloves.
The campaign, "Wingovations," comes with one lead spot and several auxiliary spots each for one of the accoutrements. A separate spot, "A Football Chat," finds Annie talking with Rice about Popeyes’ Cajun Wings.
The campaign tag line: "Football is better with Popeyes."
The effort also includes Internet, social media and POP.
A sweepstakes at a dedicated Web site offers such prizes as a VIP tailgate package including a custom golf cart and a $500 Popeyes gift card, as well as gift cards for sports apparel, coolers and tumblers. (Details here.)
Lead agency is GSD&M, Austin.
The spots will run now through Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5 in Houston’s NRG Stadium. Popeyes is not an official partner with the NFL, but likely will do some guerrilla marketing with Rice via on-site activation.
Popeyes also was the title sponsor of last month’s college football Bahamas Bowl.
"It was a natural next step for Popeyes," Hector Muñoz, CMO-US for Popeyes, said in a statement. “We know fans love to enjoy our food, especially our wings, during games. Mix that with how much social media allows fans to follow their teams and it's a perfect combination."
The lead spot finds Popeyes’ spokeswoman Annie (actress Deirdre Henry) at a news desk with co-anchor Mike. "We all know that football is better with Popeyes, but what if I told you that there is a better way to enjoy your favorite game-time snack."
At which point, the pair unveil Rice testing the Wingovation products: The Taste Mask has a chicken wing attached to the front grill to enable the wearer to eat while keeping their hands free to catch footballs. The Sauce Dome is a hard-hat with an array of sauces built into the brim. The two-ply Napkin Shirt allows people to wipe the chicken sauce on themselves without ruining their real shirts.
Spicy and Mild Toothpicks replace the taste of traditional wood tooth picks with flavors that enable the Popeyes' chicken experience to last after the meal. The Biscuit Cushion is "a stadium seat that feels like heaven and smells like butter."
People are asked to submit their own ideas. At this time, however, none of the products displayed are actually available.
In the spot for Cajun Wings, "A Football Chat," Annie interviews Rice at the news desk.
"I hear you’re a famous football player," she says. "Are you good at anything else?"
Annie then asks Rice to read the script for a Popeye’s commercial, which he does, but with her voice dubbed in.
"It’s playoff season," says Rice. "And nothing brings flavor to the game like my classic Cajun Wings."
"How’d you do that?" Annie asks. In his own voice, Rice replies, "I’m a pro."
Rice played 20 seasons in the NFL, winning three Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. He retired in 2005 but remains the league’s all-time leader in receptions (1,549), receiving years (22,895), touchdowns caught (197) and all-purpose yards (23,549).
As of October 2, 2016, Popeyes had 2,631 operating restaurants in the U.S., the District of Columbia, three territories and 26 foreign countries.
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