IFD gets finger-lickin' good sponsorship deal

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The city of Indianapolis has signed a sponsorship deal with KFC Corp., the first step in an innovative attempt to defray costs for the city.

The deal is valued at $5,000, said Jen Pittman, spokeswoman for Mayor Greg Ballard, and is the first in a series of sponsorships that city officials hope to sign that could raise a low seven-figure sum annually in years to come.

KFC will use images of iconic Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Harland Sanders with Indianapolis firefighters and city fire trucks to help market the launch a new product, fiery grilled chicken wings, later this month.
A Tuesday photo shoot was conducted at the city’s fire station and Indy Parks center at Garfield Park. Mayor Ballard may also appear in those photos, which will be primarily distributed for media use.

In exchange, Louisville-based KFC will provide $2,500 to the local fire department to buy 1,000 smoke detectors that will be handed out to the public. KFC also will pay $2,500 for about 150 fire extinguishers for 17 Indy Parks recreation centers. Each fire extinguisher will feature a 4-inch KFC logo.

“In a time when money is tight for all city municipalities, we see this as a win-win,” Pittman said. “This is a pilot program for both sides to see how this is received.”

There’s potential to expand the sponsorship deal, city officials said, and could include having KFC feed Indianapolis firefighters during extended fire and other emergency runs.

In April, Ballard announced plans to launch a city sponsorship program in which businesses could sponsor city programs, services and possibly even buildings or other city-owned structures. City officials said they’ve been talking to potential corporate sponsors since August.

City officials hope to have 10 to 15 such deals rolled out this year.

“We want to get these first deals right,” said Michael Huber, Ballard’s director of enterprise development. “We want to make sure these deals have a clear benefit and are good for the citizens. We want the benefit these deals provide to be obvious to the citizens.”

While some may find KFC logos on city park buildings unusual, marketing experts said these types of municipal-corporate sponsorship programs can be effective in defraying taxpayer expenses.

“These programs can be successful if they’re implemented correctly,” said William Chipps, senior editor of IEG Sponsorship Report, a Chicago-based trade publication following the sponsorship industry. “But you have to be careful about the appearance of over-commercialization. If it looks like you’re just trying to sell out, and stick a sign on City Hall, the public outcry will be considerable.” 

Chipps pointed out that San Diego has been highly successful with such programs, signing sponsorship deals over the last decade that now yield more than $2 million annually. Chicago, he noted, has also had some success with this type of program.

KFC is no stranger to the municipal marketing game. It has shelled out big bucks to pay for pothole patching in certain markets—including Louisville—in exchange for permission to put its logos on the asphalt patches. The Indiana town of Brazil also is part of the chicken wing campaign. Brazil will get $2,500 to repair or replace fire hydrants in exchange for putting the KFC logo on at least three of them.


  • real money
    If politicians want to raise real money to give out to their campaign donors, they need to be more creative.

    How about schools get out an hour early once a month, or once a week. The school children could do some "community service" for local businesses. At $5 an hour for the kiddie discount:

    -the private businesses get cheap labor,
    -the politicians get some walking around money,
    -and the kiddies get to learn the benefits of hard work.

    The kiddies also get a civics lesson when they learn how to spoot a crooked politician.
  • Well...
    Just did a Bing search and this deal is getting coverage internationally. Mostly positive. City could be dumb like a fox.
  • Incredible
    KFC got $30,000 worth of pub from this stunt. But..the mayor got KFC for a year, he is a happy man
  • Yeah, Right
    So where are you going to draw the line? What other assets of the city are you going to sell off or allow it to be covered with NASCAR type stickers?

    A previous poster had it right. The City wouldn't need to enter into these tacky deals if they would stop giving our money away. In a few weeks, the Ballard administration is going to announce it has given away millions more in tax dollars to the Pacers. I'm talking MILLIONS. These silly sponsorship deals distract from the Mayor's huge waste of our tax dollars.
  • Hm.
    Tell you what - why don't we ask 1,000 inner-city families that get one of the smoke detectors if this was a good thing for Indy.
    • A thought
      Congrats to Ad Man for the thought of the day on this. The City clearly stated that this is a pilot program. And ironically, the more we talk about it, the higher the pricetag on the next one.

      As far as I'm concerned, hats off to the City on getting the ball rolling. Others have tried and failed.
    • GREAT!
      This is exactly what "Re-Legalize Indiana" (on FB) needs. THANK YOU MAYOR BALLARD for leading the way by offering us this great opportunity to co-op and grow with our city.
      We will most certainly be in touch.
      cheers n love
      bill levin
    • Gotta crawl before you can walk.
      From the city's perspective, they probably know they've been had. But think of the *marketing* value the city will have to persuade other companies to give them money to promote their products in the city. Then, that's when Indianapolis will be getting six figure sponsorship checks.

      To put things in perspective, the services of the copywriter who wrote the letter probably cost KFC somewhere around $5,000. But, it was an effective sales pitch and well worth the investment, wouldn't you say?!
    • Funny
      meant "across the country"
    • Funny
      If you want a laugh, check out the letter that was sent to mayor's across the county from KFC. Copy and paste this link to the South Florida Business Journal, and they printed the letter (it's at the end of the article):
    • Not Very Impressive
      I am not opposed to corporate sponsorships per se, and I realize that Indianapolis has a long history of public-private partnerships, and even some examples of outright sponsorships (e.g. Lucas Stadium, etc.); HOWEVER, this seems like a very lame deal. I have relatives and friends who work in marketing, and I know from speaking with them that a $5,000 payment for this type of promotion for a major corporation is peanuts. I also know from my work in philanthropy that many corporations (especially of that size) would simply DONATE more money to engender goodwill than what will be paid by KFC for getting a free ad campaign from the city. If this had been a $50,000 or even $30,000 deal, then I might say "good job" to the Ballard administration. But, it seems Indianapolis was just taken by KFC in this case. How much time, and therefore tax dollars, was spent by city employees setting up this deal, posing for photos, reviewing contracts, etc.? Once you deduct the expenses, the $5,000 will look smaller and smaller. Also, half the money isn't going to the city directly. Giving away smoke detectors is a nice idea, but the city doesn't even need to be involved in that. It would have been great if KFC had simply allocated some of its annual corporate philanthropy budget to fund the smoke detectors, rather than including that portion in their "fee" paid to the city. The city needs to engage better lawyers and contract negotiators.
    • City for Sale
      "Creative thinking?" This isn't exactly a new idea. And it sure is not a good idea. The Mayor is going to sell off the entire city before his term ends.
    • Tacky
      Excellent points "Can't" and "Laura."

      This promotion reminds me of the Reno 911 episode where a Hooters type restaurant sponsored the Sheriff's Dept. The cars were repainted pink and the officers had to wear partially pink uniforms.
    • Get professionals
      If the city is going to pursue more such deals, I suggest that they find out what the value of sponsorships like this are. $5k is way under valued for the promotional value that KFC is getting.

      I have no problem with sponsorships and creative thinking in tough times. BUT I hope the city administration will treat this like the state is supposed to treat lottery funds...for things that are above and beyond the essentials. I would also suggest that Mayor Ballard think long and hard about appearing in the ads.
    • Free Advertising
      I hope that when there is an emergency the fire fighters and trucks that my tax dollars pay for are not parked in front of a KFC to promote their products. While the city gets a measly $5k, the tax paying citizens don't get anything. KFC should be giving those smoke detectors out for free as long as they are putting their logos on them and as far as how much they are paying for the use of our reseources, KFC got away with a steal of a deal. Who is paying for the gas, maintenance, repair, etc for all of the trucks to make it to all of these appearences and are the firefighters getting paid out of city funds to participate? Why don't you do some research to find out how much the type of advertising KFC is doing usually costs them? If they weren't making money by doing it then they wouldn't do it because they are a BUSINESS and they get it, unlike our mayor who continues to use limited taxpayer resources for frivolous ventures!
    • Solutions
      Branden and Cssey,

      Here's a solution...stop giving sweetheart deals to devleopers and professional sports teams that cost taxpayers money. The Ballard people are poised to hand over $15 million more to the Simons for absolutely no reason. What about the sweetheart development on East Market that will cost taxpayers millions?

      The Ballard administration wants to pick up a measly $5K to deface city property yet refuses to collection millions in rights of way fees from telecoms because the Mayor's attorney represents AT&T.
    • Here here Branden
      So agreed Branden!! SOLUTION thinking!
    • Get over yourself Flynn
      Flynn - What is repuslive are negative comments like yours- none the less the backward thinking...1000 fire detectors and fire extinguishers that help the citizens of and our public sevants and money for the city to boot...Get over yourself Flynn...why don't you try some IDEAS and solutions to help our citizens rather than negativity!
      • TOO CHEAP
        IFD sold out too cheaply. How about BIG deals to lower taxes?
      • No It Isn't
        No, Adam, putting the city up for sale, for no less than $5,000, is not "pretty smart." It's repulsive. What's next - selling the naming rights to the City County Building?

        You realize this money is going to go down a rat hole - it's not like it's going to lead to lower taxes.

      • thought
        LOL Mutt! Of course, it's $5k more than the city had before - and new fire extinguishers and smoke detectors that'll work
      • kfc
        I bet other cities will follow Indy on this. (Just realized that's something I haven't said very often)
      • Only 399 more
        At $5000 a pop, it will only require 399 more such deals to net $2 million a year. Never mind that it will probably cost the city a bunch of money in legal fees to negotiate and review the agreements...
      • Sure
        Gotta say, this is pretty smart. If the Mayor can find private companies to lend a hand, why not? Keep the $ coming.

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