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Safeway shows its team spirit.

When Safeway decided to become a sponsor of the United States Olympic Team, the chain felt it would be most productive to make it a team effort, involving all 17 of its divisions throughout the U.S. and all 120,000 of its employees.

"This is the first time we've ever made that large of a commitment involving that many people in a common goal over that long of a time period," says Ron Giglio, central advertising manager. As a sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Team, Safeway will be providing money and food for the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs through 1984.

Safeway became involved in the Olympic program last spring. The chain was looking for ways to make its slogan, "America's Favorite Food Store" come alive. "What better way," says Giglio, "than to connect it with America's favorite athletes--the U.S. Olympic Team." The chain preferred to support the U.S. Olympic Team rather than the Los Angeles Games, because it involved a longer lasting commitment. Safeway's commitment to the team extends for a year and half. The team connection also allowed the chain to ally itself with both the Winter and Summer Games.

Safeway's responsibilities from an actual supply standpoint are somewhat limited. The chain is not attempting to supply every bit of food for the training table. "For one thing," says Giglio, "there are local suppliers we don't want to usurp." But the combination of providing food and money literally feeds Olympic athletes and hopefuls who are training at the center through 1984.

The number of athletes at the U.S. Olympic Training Center varies each day, ranging from 400 during the off-season to 1,200 during the summer, when many of the athletes are on holiday from school. The mess hall is relatively small and storage is minimal. Safeway is helping out in that regard by stationing a refrigerated truck at the cafeteria to provide additional storage space. (Food products provided by Safeway for the training table are delivered through its Denver division.)

Safeway is very happy about its Olympic sponsorship for a variety of reasons. "We believe there are very positive feelings about the Olympics this year," says Giglio. "There's a much greater feeling of patriotism and involvement in the U.S. based on international events the last few years. With the Games being held in the U.S. this year, interest is heightened.

"Also, since the United States did not participate in the Moscow Olympics four years ago, it has been eight years since Americans have been able to see the Summer Olympic Games. Many younger people, our target audience, don't recall wathing the Olympics. This will be the first time they'll have the opportunity to become enthused about the Games."

Safeway is doing everything it can to pump up Olympic enthusiasm among consumers and employees. One element of excitement stems from the fact that there are several Olympic athletes and relatives of Olympic athletes among Safeway's employees. For example, Conrad Thalhammer, a produce clerk in the Seattle division, has a second-degree black belt in judo, is ranked third in the country in his weight class and is considered a top Olympic prospect. Olympic hopeful Dedy Cooper works at Safeway's headquarters and is a world-class hurdler.

While every Safeway employee might not be an Olympic-caliber athlete they are all being given the chance to win an all-expense paid trip to the Olympic Games this summer. In all, 80 Safeway employees will be chosen. "Those are pretty good odds," says Giglio, "much better than most manufacturer-sponsored Olympic sweepstakes where you're chances are only one in a million."

The process for selecting store employees based on five sales events and three theme contests. The first qualifying event, held last July, involved a sales competition featuring Lucerne ice cream and frozen novelties. The initial theme event revolved around Safeway's Western Days promotion. Judging was based on involvement in the theme, including store decor and employee dress-up.

Winning stores in each of the eight events qualify for a series of drawings from which the winner will be selected. All employees are eligible for those drawings which will be held this July. Nonstore employees will be able to qualify in another series of drawings by competing in an Olympic word puzzle. Getting In-House Play

To keep employees up-to-date on the Safeway Team and other Olympic related activities, Safeway is publishing Team Meeting, a slick 8-inch by 11-inch newsletter issued once or twice a month to all Safeway employees.

"Overall, the Olympics is getting a great deal of in-house play," says Giglio. Besides Team Meeting, Safeway's traditional employee newsletter will devote an entire issue to Olympic involvement. Safeway is also offering employees t-shirts, baseball jerseys and sweat shirts bearing the Safeway Olympic logo at a minimal cost.

"The response from employees has been very positive and extremely enthusiastic," says Giglio. "Of course, some divisions are more enthusiastic than others. For example, Colorado Springs and Denver are very volatile because the training center is right there. But other divisions are also active. Our Washington D.C. division recently held an employee contest to design an Olympic logo for one of its trailer trucks. Other divisions are doing similar things."

All Safeway stores are supplied with an Olympic store decor package, but are also encouraged to develop the Olympic theme as much as they like. "For instance," says Giglio, "some of the stores may want to do things on their own, particularly if there are local athletes."

As part of its merchandising package, Safeway has designed bag stuffers, imprinted grocery bags and created drop-in advertising highlighting the Olympic theme. Print ads promoting Safeway's sponsorship have run in national magazines and a corporate television schedule covers all of its markets.

In conjunction with its Olympic sponsorship, Safeway is spotlighting its Lucerne dairy products and fresh meat. "These are two key areas of our store operation," explains Giglio, "and we're proud of them. They are also two of the major food lines we are delivering to the training center."

Special banners, posters and shelf strips have been designed to tie in these products with the Olympic sponsorship. Advertisements for Lucerne ice cream tell consumers that for every half-gallon of Lucerne ice cream purchased, Safeway makes a cash contribution to the U.S. Olympic Team. The ad reads, "So dig in...and be proud you're helping America's favorite athletes. We are."

Safeway is also encouraging its stores to take advantage of merchandising displays and promotions offered by other corporate sponsors of the Olympics. "It makes a lot of sense for us to support that type of effort," says Giglio, "particularly since we're sponsors. Of course, to a large degree, those decisions are made by the local divisions. They determine how they are going to promote a product during any given week in their operating area."

To heighten consumer interest in the Olympics, Safeway is planning to devote an entire issue of its consumer nutrition magainze, Foods Unlimited, to the Olympics. In that issue, the chain plans to include stores on health and exercise, plus recipes and diet information from the Olympic Training Center.

Since Safeway's sponsorship encompasses a period of a year and a half, the chain has been very careful to schedule a gradual build-up.

"We increased our television commercial schedule just prior to and during the Winter Games," says Giglio. We also introduced a new store display kit keyed to the Winter Olympic theme. As we get closer to the Summer Olympics, we'll replace that material with Summer sports' promotions. Then, of course, prior to and during the Summer Olympics our commercial schedule will again intensity."

The chain isn't too worried that people will be turned off by over-exposure. "It's a potential problem, I suppose," admits Giglio, "but I feel the Winter Games merely whet everyone's appetite for the upcoming Summer Olympics. There's no question there will be a tremendous amount of material on the Olympics, but the Games offer a wide appeal. We have a person in our office who never watches any sports event. He could care less. But the one thing he does intend to watch is the Olympics. And I think that's true of a lot of people. We're just proud we can be a part of it."
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Title Annotation:sponsors U.S. Olympic team
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Date:Mar 1, 1984
Words:1383
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