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Lessons Learned from Burger King’s McWhopper Proposal

By Paul Langhorst on 8/26/2015

What can youth sports leaders learn from Burger King's sizzling proposal, “Let’s work together to create the McWhopper” to McDonald’s?  In their instantly famous proposal launched just this morning, Burger King, publicly suggested that the two burger chains work together to create the McWhopper, for one day, to be sold at one location, with proceeds donated to the Peace One Day Foundation. Burger King launched the proposal in full-page ads in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune.  Within minutes, major media outlets took a bite and ran segments discussing the unique proposition. (read the full proposal)

The CEO of McDonald’s basically tossed out their offer, and responded, “Thanks, but no thanks, and next time just call us first.”

So, just what does all this burger brandishing have to do with managing a youth sports organization? 

It reinforces the value of PR, partnering and unique promotions.

In public relations, there is a saying, “Any PR, is good PR.”  In reality, the saying should be amended to include “depending how it is handled.”  At its core, PR creates awareness, whether wanted or not, and how that awareness is handled is really what matters.

I believe McDonald’s put themselves in a PR pickle and come off appearing trite and non-caring by not wanting to participate in the event. The increased interest generated by the story will cause increased sales at both chains, and by fueling the story a bit longer, the impact could be extended. In a stagnant industry, a little fun and excitement could be the ingredients for renewed interest and growth.

So in the case of your youth sports organization, if you receive good PR spread it loudly and widely.  If you receive bad PR, don’t run from it, embrace it for what it is – a learning experience.  Share with your members and the media that you are establishing a review committee, generate response steps and publish them to your members and the media.

The other PR point made in this case is that smaller entities can leverage the status of the larger entity for PR gain.  Burger King created a big PR splash by suggesting a promotion with a vastly larger partner (Burger King has just under 13,000 worldwide locations vs McDonald's 36,000.)  By inserting itself into a discussion and debate with a much larger patty, I mean party, the smaller party is elevated to the level of the larger. An example might be a small youth sports organization partnering with a large local university to study fan behavior.  The university has great status and a huge PR network into which the small youth sports association is pulled. 

Lastly, the other lesson learned is on the value of partnership and creating unique promotions.  Youth sports associations across the US are struggling to raise funds and they keep doing the same old things…selling pizzas and 50/50 raffles, asking local businesses for sponsorship and donations, and hosting trivia nights and mouse races.  All good, but a tad boring, not really newsworthy and not tapping into the larger community for donations.

Look at your needs and brainstorm unique promotional opportunities that will generate significant media interest and attention. One does not want to recreate the now infamous “Demolition Disco Night” promotion, but there are other creative ways to attract attention to your cause.  Need a new hamburger grill in the concession stand? How about sponsoring a Best Hamburger Contest in conjunction with a local restaurant, grocery chain or BBQ store.  Entry fees could be charged and the local media eat up this type of stuff.  And don't stop there - own it!  Make in an annual event and build long term value, participation, recognition and revenues.  

So, to improve your youth sports fundraising, think out of the bun, I mean box!

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Paul Langhorst

As a former softball coach and veteran business leader, Paul Langhorst is on a mission to help sports associations and leagues improve their operations and experience for players, parents, fans and their volunteer leaders.

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