By IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – If you’re at the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix of Long Beach, or if you’re watching on TV, you can’t miss that BUBBA burger logo. It’s EVERYWHERE.
It’s stepped-and-repeated on the signage above the 1.968-mile street circuit’s signature “hairpin” turn leading onto the front straightaway, and plenty of other locations around the circuit. It’s on the large BUBBA burger boxes that are placed on the roofs of race-winning cars in victory lane.
And if you happen to be anywhere in the Los Angeles area between now and the 2019 BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix on Saturday, April 13, you won’t be able to miss it there either.
“This year, specifically, is going to be the biggest year for me on a blitz,” said BUBBA burger Vice President of Marketing, Andy Stenson. You can’t miss him at the racetrack either. He’s the guy wearing the patriotic-themed suit and the flat-billed BUBBA burger hat.
Stenson’s pre-event promotional blitz includes billboards throughout Southern California that will see millions of eyeballs, ticket giveaways on iHeart Radio as well as Hispanic radio through a partnership with Univision, in-store signage, digital advertising – the whole nine yards.
“BUBBA burger is taking over L.A. this year,” Stenson says.
That’s why BUBBA burger got involved with the Grand Prix and IMSA in the first place.
Back in 2016, the purveyor of frozen burgers was looking for a way to raise its profile on the west coast. Meanwhile, IMSA and the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach needed an entitlement partner for the annual, 100-minute IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race as part of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend that, this year, will feature the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) and GT Le Mans (GTLM) classes.
“It was fitting right in line with our strategy,” Stenson recalls. “We had taken on, four years ago, a strategy to start moving forward on west coast promotions and visibility. I was already partners out there with Fontana and the Auto Club Speedway. This was a few weeks later, so the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix came about fairly quickly.”
Very quickly. The partnership was announced in March, during the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts event. One month later, the inaugural BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix of Long Beach was run.
Now entering its fourth year of the partnership with IMSA and the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, BUBBA burger has seen its significant returns in the market.
“Two years ago, it grew 33 percent. Last year, it grew 22 percent, so since we happened to have the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix out there, we have had substantial growth in that Southern California region,” Stenson said.
“I can’t say it was all due to that, but I would say that there is a strong influence. BUBBA burger as a brand, five years ago, had very low brand awareness. We are gaining fast. Our growth is really tremendous out there, so I think that would be the strongest metric that we can put to it is our sales.”
The partnership also has been a hit with drivers and teams. In fact, Gunnar Jeannette attributed his 2017 GT Daytona (GTD) class victory with co-driver Cooper MacNeil in the No. 50 WeatherTech Mercedes-AMG GT3 to his lunch that day.
“I had a BUBBA burger before the race,” said Jeannette in a victory lane interview. “I think that may have been what did it.”
Stenson appreciates the support.
“The drivers have been great,” he said. “Both the drivers and the teams have been really great. They’ve integrated BUBBA burger into their media blitz for the Grand Prix, lots of hashtags (#BUBBAGP). Wayne Taylor Racing (winners of the event in 2016 and 2017), they’ve been really great.
“They were up on the podium also showing the BUBBA burger boxes, doing the hashtags, talking about BUBBA burgers in social media, wearing our hats – which means a lot to me. I’m a hat guy and I love when I see the drivers wearing the hats. Victory lane every year is always exciting. All the teams love getting the hats, they love the big boxes and the celebration.”
The support also is authentic. After all, who doesn’t love a good burger?
“It’s organically created, so what makes it authentic and fun is that, yeah, it’s not a paid endorsement,” Stenson said. “(The drivers are) doing it for fun and just being part of the fabric of the weekend.
“For me, being a marketer that relies on people to help me, I’m one person and I try to meet people and try to encourage that behavior, so I like that. It really helps the brand grow both organically in motorsports and racing and in IMSA specifically, but people see that. That’s just fun.”
The Grand Prix is the centerpiece to a multi-year partnership between IMSA and BUBBA burger. And it was via that partnership where BUBBA burger got some somewhat unexpected additional exposure.
“We were integrated into the Microsoft Forza racing game,” he said. “I think they called it the ‘Long Beach Circuit Race’ in the game. That was one of the greatest things I’ve loved was having our billboards within the race, showing the authentic billboards of the Long Beach Grand Prix and the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix. In the game, you can see most of our branding around there, which was really cool.
“That was something that IMSA facilitated with Microsoft to bring that out. That meant a lot. eSports is a segment that I do market to. I’ve had some very good success over the past year and a half, two years, so that just fit well. That was something that they didn’t have to do, but they did over and above what needed to be done, so that was great. That’s an example of how the relationships work.”
Another example is distribution of coupons at Long Beach and other IMSA events throughout the year that offer discounts on BUBBA burger products. That also delivered a key learning for Stenson.
“What’s interesting is, you can tell that these races are not strictly regional events,” he said. “They’re really national events, because those coupons will be redeemed – say that we’re passing them out at the Long Beach Grand Prix. Well, they may be redeemed in Utah, or they may be redeemed in Ohio, so it’s interesting to see, because people are coming from around the country.
“We’re seeing redemptions in the Northeast. We’re seeing redemptions in the Midwest. We’re seeing redemptions in the Pacific Northwest, so we’re seeing it everywhere. That’s what’s been great, too.”
IMSA fans will get another bite of BUBBA burger at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach next month. If you don’t already have them, tickets are available now on GPLB.com.
If you’re at the track, be sure to swing by the BUBBA burger food truck. In keeping with the theme, you won’t be able to miss it.
You won’t be able to miss Stenson, either, who has promised a new-for-2019 suit. Chat him up if you see him. After all, that’s why he wears the suit.
“It’s just showing patriotism for the U.S., patriotism for the event, and then just being fun and approachable,” he said. “The drivers love it. They’re getting pictures with me and it’s just a lot of fun.”
Of course, if you can’t make it out to the racetrack, BUBBA burgers are available nationwide in the U.S. and Canada. What better way is there to enjoy NBC Sports live coverage of the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix?
NBCSN will have live, flag-to-flag coverage of the race beginning at 5 p.m. ET. IMSA Radio also will cover the action live on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio.