When the Flyers first pitched Insomnia Cookies on a team sponsorship around a year ago, CMO Tom Carusona initially said no -- reflexively. As marketer for a brand spawned around college campuses, he’s turned down scores of pitches for college sponsorships as the Insomnia brand -- born in a dorm room in Penn’s West Philadelphia campus -- rose like dough in the oven over the past 20 years to more than 230 stores.
Still, the proposal became unique after months of discussions between the team, Insomnia and Innovative Partnerships Group, which brokered the deal for the Flyers. Certainly, there were hometown ties, but just as important was doing business with another Philly-based company in Aramark. Wells Fargo Center averages around 200 events a year, and cookies will be sold at all events, not just hockey games.
So, Insomnia’s first team sponsorship not only got it the unprecedented "official cookie of the Flyers” designation and marketing assets at Wells Fargo Center, it pushed the brand into a new distribution channel: two branded Insomnia Cookie stands at the arena opening within a few weeks. Insomnia Cookies will also be on suite menus at the arena.
“It’s a sponsorship deal, but one that also came with (retail) locations within the building, (and) that degree of business back made it attractive," said Carusona, perhaps not coincidentally a former marketer at both Aramark and Comcast, which owns the Flyers. "This will allow us to learn and test a new model, reach a somewhat older consumer and have two million people a year in that building with our cookies."
Every young brand could benefit from some incremental branding of the sort the Flyers will provide with arena assets. How far the combination of Insomnia’s millennial appeal and Aramark’s service base of 150 food and beverage accounts in North America seems far more significant. We’ll find out if fresh-baked cookies can scale with the help of sports. The category has shown growth lately. Restaurant Business estimates the 20-year-old Insomnia’s 2021 sales at $158 million (that’s a lot of chocolate chips).
“Awareness and brand sentiment measures are key for us as we grow, but learning with Aramark is important," said Carusona. “We want to find out as much as we can about selling our products in an arena environment with a small footprint."
The Flyers are also looking to integrate the cookie brand into their Student Rush ticket marketing campaign, said Dan Wise, SVP/corporate partnerships for the Flyers and Wells Fargo Center. Insomnia is hoping to use Flyers intellectual property for promotions at their 20 stores in Philly market. It's uncertain whether team logos will make it onto cookies.
Innovative Partnerships Group’s Jeff Marks: "This is a sponsorship in a non-traditional category, but I would tell you that we applied the same ROI and revenue modeling here we would apply to a bank, tech or infrastructure brand doing a naming-rights deal.”
Carusona said the cookies will retail for around $4 in at the arena. He’s confident that the warm cookies-cold rink dichotomy will spur sales. Carusona has just one remaining concern. "I hope this isn’t going to make my phone ring a lot with more (sponsorship) pitches," he laughed. “We just don't have budgets like Nike or Chevy."
Innovative Partnerships Group (IPG 360) is a leading Los Angeles-based naming rights, business development and international marketing firm focused on generating long-term strategic business partnerships for prestigious global brands. It is specialised in the sports, music and entertainment industries and has extensive experience with clients from professional leagues, governing bodies and franchises and teams from the main sports competitions including LaLiga, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, MLB and the Olympics.
Innovative Partnerships Group also works with a patented system, Partnership Intelligence ™, which helps companies and brands accurately assess, align and measure their potential sponsorship deals. The company has been recognised on several occasions in recent years by Sports Business Journal as one of the leading sports marketing agencies in this industry