Beef 'O' Brady's, a 210-restaurant chain in the Southeast, is in its second year, with two years left on its contract, as the title sponsor for what was the St. Petersburg Bowl (and is now the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl). Three years ago when the sports bar and restaurant chain was approached by ESPN to buy into a sponsorship, the franchise had to weigh its options before agreeing.

"We took a hard look at it. We wanted it to have a positive impact on the brand image. We wanted to build awareness of the brand. We wanted the franchises to benefit from that awareness, building additional traffic in the restaurants, and naturally we hoped to see the flow of franchise leads increase. We decided to go forward with it for a couple of reasons," says Chris Elliott, Beef 'O' Brady's CEO.

1. The game is held in St. Petersburg, Fla., not terribly far from Beef 'O' Brady's headquarters in Tampa. Elliott says about 60% of its locations are in Florida. There are some 45 locations nearby, meaning a significant portion of Beef 'O' Brady's customers and franchisees would likely watch the game.

"If the Bowl game had been in Jacksonville, Fla. or some other state, we probably would not have done it, but the proximity to our headquarters and large concentration of stores was an efficient way to build brand awareness," Elliott says.

2. Being a title sponsor sends the message that even a little company can act like a big company. "It makes a small company like us look a lot bigger than we are," Elliott says. "We are now known in places in the country that nobody ever heard of us before, and even internationally."

3. Being sponsor to a game like the St. Petersburg/Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl has immediate advantages. The company's Web site saw increased traffic on the night of the game as viewers looked to find more information about it. "Our Web site normally gets 21,000 hit a week. We got 21,000 the day of the Beef Bowl -- so we get a whole week's worth of hits in a night," Elliott says.

Being title sponsor isn't cheap. Beef 'O' Brady's paid $400,000 for the position. For that a business also gets tickets to the game, involvement in the its pre-, during and post-game events, plus eight commercial spots during the national broadcast, Elliott says.

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