Wagamama is using sponsorship to build its presence in the U.S. market.

The London-based pan-Asian restaurant chain entered the U.S. in 2008 with a location in Boston. The company has since opened three additional locations in Beantown, with a fifth planned for New York City.

And the company is using sponsorship to support its growth plans.

Wagamama—which means “Naughty child” in Japanese—sponsored the Sept. 25-27 Boston Calling music festival to build its presence in the local market.

“It’s a noisy world these days, and we’re not on every corner. It’s important that we align our brand with something that is relevant, has a cool factor and reaches an important demographic,” said Robin Ruttle, Wagamama North America marketing manager.

“I’m a huge fan of experiential marketing. Restaurants have to get people to try their food to convert them into regular customers. Getting in front of people you might not otherwise be in front of is key.”

The company partnered with Boston Calling to accomplish the following objectives:

  • Build relevance and top-of-mind awareness
  • Engage college students and young professionals
  • Sample product
  • Demonstrate local positioning

Staying relevant was a key driver for the sponsorship, said Ruttle.

“We’ve been in Boston for seven years, but the pace of our openings has slowed. There was a four year gap between our third and fourth store opening, so it’s important to stay relevant and present.”

Product sampling plays a key role in Wagamama’s sponsorship strategy. The restaurant sold three meals at Boston Calling—Ginger Chicken Udon, Yasai Pad Thai and Shrimp Skewers Kushiyaki—all of which sold out at the three-day fest.

“It was our first sponsorship of a music festival, and it was highly successful.”

The restaurant chain this year also sampled product at two events produced by local media companies: The Boston Globe Summer Arts Weekend and Boston Magazine’s “The Cookout,” a two-day culinary event.

“A lot of what we do is sampling,” said Ruttle, noting that Boston Calling offered the best of both words by providing on-site sales rights.

“People paid us to try our food, which is the best case scenario.”