On-demand food delivery services are developing a taste of sponsorship. And they’re growing hungrier by the day.

Companies ranging from Caviar to Waitr are doubling down on sponsorship to gain a point of differentiation in an increasingly competitive category.

The companies are partnering with nearly every type of property in the U.S. and abroad ranging from professional sports leagues and teams to music festivals and pride events.

Recent deals include Waitr and the Sloss Music & Arts Festival in Birmingham, Alabama; Deliveroo and Pride in London; and Just Eat and The X Factor, Triathlon Ireland and the Dublinbikes bike share service.

The ties build on a number of existing deals in the category including Caviar and the Outside Lands music festival, Grubhub and Taste of Atlanta and Waitr and the New Orleans Pelicans and New Orleans Saints.

On-demand food delivery services use sponsorship to accomplish four primary objectives:

  • Build awareness
  • Drive app downloads
  • Gain scale
  • Drive sales  

And additional deals are expected as the category continues to grow. McKinsey & Co. expects online food delivery to grow 25 percent per year from 2015 to 2018, after which it will taper off to roughly 15 percent per year through 2020.

“The category has potential given the funding behind many of these companies and the pressure to acquire and retain customers,” said Beth Schnitzer, president and co-founder of Spritz, a marketing agency that served as Seamless’ official activation agency in Northern California prior to the company’s merger with Grubhub.

McKinsey & Co. splits the on-demand food delivery category into two segments: aggregators and “New Delivery” companies.

While both types of companies allow consumers to compare menus, read reviews and place orders from a variety of restaurants with a single click on an app, they vary in terms of how the order is delivered.

Aggregators (Delivery Hero, Foodpanda, Grubhub, Just Eat, etc.) take orders and submit them to restaurants, which deliver the order themselves. New Delivery companies (Deliveroo, Foodora, etc.) build their own logistics networks and provide delivery for restaurants that don’t have drivers.

Regardless of which sector they operate in, food delivery companies have the potential to dramatically alter the consumer experience at sponsored events.

Waitr activates its partnership with Lamar State College, Port Arthur by giving fans the opportunity to have food delivered to home basketball games. The school has set up a Waitr delivery station where fans can meet with Waitr drivers to pick up their orders.

Other companies are bringing a different twist to sponsored events. Deliveroo activated its sponsorship of last month’s London Pride by temporarily changing its name to “Deloveroo,” offering a selection of rainbow-themed foods and donating £1 for every purchase of a limited-edition hamburger from the MEATLiquor restaurant chain to Stonewall, an LGBT rights charity.

Other restaurants offered rainbow sushi, a specially-created “Proud” beer and a “Proud Whopper,” the latter of behalf of Burger King.

Navigating Category Exclusivity
Food delivery companies typically look for status as official food ordering app or official food delivery service app, although some take status as official catering partner.

The food delivery category can potentially bump up against two other more traditional sponsorship categories: shipping/logistics companies and grocery stores.

The San Francisco 49ers are precluded from signing a partner in the food delivery category due to an existing partnership with Safeway. The sponsorship covers the entire grocery category including food delivery.

Other categories that compete and/or operate in close proximately to food delivery include meal kits, alcohol delivery, restaurant reservation apps and general delivery services.