At first glance, fast-casual hamburger chains, hard seltzer and Lambrusco wine have little in common. But take a closer look, and they all share one common bond: increased sponsorship activity.

Below, category overviews and sponsorship hot buttons in the three sectors.

Better-Burger Chains
While McDonald’s and other established quick-service restaurant chains have cut back on sponsorship over the past few years, some better-burger chains are filling the void.

BurgerFi, Shake Shack and other fast-casual hamburger chains are signing new deals with motorsports teams, music festivals and other types of properties to build visibility and promote their product offering.

On the motorsports front, BurgerFi last week announced a one-year partnership with Tyler Reddick and the No. 9 JR Motorsports’ NASCAR Xfinity Series team. The company will serve as primary sponsor at two races (Daytona International Speedway and Kentucky Speedway) and cosponsor the car for the remainder of the season.

BurgerFi, which operates more than 100 locations in the U.S. and other markets, will use the sponsorship to support its national expansion.

“BurgerFi is looking forward to working with the JR Motorsports team to help fuel Tyler to victory in his No. 9 BurgerFi-inspired Chevrolet Camaro,” said BurgerFi CEO Corey Winograd, in a statement. “As a relatively young company, we believe in young talent. Tyler’s tenacity is unparalleled and we are thrilled to be a part of his success this season.”

Better-burger chains separate themselves from other fast-food restaurants by offering premium hamburgers that are often seen as healthier (and more expensive) than those offered by competitors.

Other better-burger chains using sponsorship include The Habit Burger Grill (Nun Run 5K), Smashburger (Colorado Avalanche and New Jersey Devils) and Whataburger (Mala Luna Music Festival).

The increased sponsorship activity comes amid a decline in hamburger consumption. Fifty-six percent of consumers say they eat burgers at least once a week, down from roughly two-thirds of consumers in 2013, according to Technomic Inc.’s 2017 Burger Consumer Trend Report.

Consumers now prepare a higher percentage of burgers at home, according to the report.

Sponsorship hot buttons:

  • Promote product quality (never frozen, hand pressed, etc.)
  • Demonstrate local positioning
  • Access promotional platforms to drive store traffic

Hard Seltzer
Hard seltzer brands are joining seltzer water in using sponsorship to build their brands, sample product and drive sales.

Beer and spirits companies are launching hard seltzer products to capitalize on the nearly 50 percent growth in sparkling water sales over the past five years.

And a growing number are using sponsorship to promote their products as a healthier-for-you alternative to beer and spirits.

Mark Anthony Group last week announced a partnership with the Warrior Dash obstacle course series on behalf of White Claw Hard Seltzer. The sponsorship includes a branded obstacle and sampling rights at each Warrior Dash event.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Warrior Dash and provide their hundreds of thousands of athletes with an all-natural, 100-calorie White Claw after they complete the fun and challenging 5K obstacle course,” said Ryan Heuser, White Claw director of field marketing, in a statement.

Mark Anthony, which also owns Mike’s Hard Lemonade, launched White Claw in June 2016.

Other brands in the hard seltzer category include Nauti Seltzer (Wachusett Brewing Co.), Truly Spiked & Sparkling (Boston Beer Company); Spiked Seltzer (Anheuser-Busch) and Smirnoff Spiked Sparkling Water (Diageo).

Sponsorship hot buttons:

  • Engage health-conscious consumers
  • Promote hard seltzer as an alternative to beer and spirits
  • Access sampling rights
  • Access promotional platforms to drive retail traffic

Sparkling red wine is making a comeback, with Reunite leading the charge.

While the Italian wine brand is well-known among Baby Boomers due to its advertising campaign in the 1970s and 1980s (“Riunite on ice…that’s nice”), the brand is looking to introduce itself to a new generation of consumers.

Riunite is using a mix of sponsorship and promotions to generate a buzz, with a focus on properties located in the Mid-Atlantic market.

The sparkling wine signed a new sponsorship with the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Del. and is running a ticket promotion with the Washington Capitals. Riunite also has run an NFL-themed promotion over the past several years that dangles the opportunity to host an invite-only tailgate party at a professional football game.

Banfi Vitners imports and sells Riunite in the U.S. market.

Sponsorship hot buttons:

  • Engage legal drinking age consumers
  • Promote brand heritage
  • Access sampling rights
  • Access pouring rights
  • Gain platforms for retail promotions