IFD gets finger-lickin' good sponsorship deal

January 6, 2010

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.


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