‘What the Favre?!’: 5 Questions With Buffalo Wild Wings CMO Bob Ruhland

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Buffalo Wild Wings Brett Favre

It’s been a while since Buffalo Wild Wings did a TV advertisement about the switch behind the bar that disrupts plays in NFL games and decides the outcome. And it’s been a while since Brett Favre starred in a commercial that had significant relevance in the ramp up to the Super Bowl.

So this week, Buffalo Wild Wings has brought back both things in a new “What the Favre?!” TV advertising campaign that renews its “disruptor” messaging and also gives the Hall of Fame quarterback yet another new marketing platform. In the first ad, “Marionette,” Favre’s movements seem to be controlled by an unseen force. And the story will continue with ads up to and around Super Bowl LI on February 5.

Over the past couple of years, B-Dubs has broken away from the disruptor positioning on TV to emphasize other things about the brand. In 2015, for instance, Buffalo Wild Wings launched a campaign, “Football Rich,” which emphasized the immersive experience of watching football on the chain’s multiple huge TVs with dozens of other fans. And last year, it launched a “15-Minute Lunch” promotion.

But fans and even athletes have pointed a finger at Buffalo Wild Wings on social media when unexplained events or an unseen force occurs during a big game, asking the brand to #HitTheButton and influence the outcome. Last year, B-Dubs said it saw 12,000 social interactions in which fans called it out, asked for help or were even angry about the final result—including more than 3,000 tweets during Game 7 of last fall’s World Series in which fans asked the brand to intervene.

Buffalo Wild Wings Brett Favre

brandchannel talked with Bob Ruhland, CMO of Buffalo Wild Wings, about the campaign and his industry:

bc: How have you been marketing B-Dubs since the highly successful “disruptor” campaign broke a few years ago.

Bob Ruhland Buffalo Wild Wings

Bob Ruhland: We feel we’re the sports fan’s biggest fan. The “unseen force” is just one of our connections with the fan. It’s something that has had a life of its own, though. And while we moved away from it from a broadcast perspective, it stayed active for the brand through social channels.

The construct is that when fans want something to happen, B-Dubs does something—and it happens. They have kept us alive socially the whole time we’ve been off the air and communicating our great foods, shareable foods and great beers.

bc: Why not leave well enough alone when it comes to broadcast TV?

Ruhland: We always felt we could dust it off and bring it out so we could point out the very differentiated role in sports that Buffalo Wild Wings has. We’ve had this idea around Brett Favre and a Super Bowl engagement for a number of years. We felt the time was right this year with him going into the Hall of Fame [in 2016]. But we didn’t want it to be an island. We wanted to promote that again.

bc: Why did you choose Brett Favre?

Ruhland: We looked at Brett as being perfect. He’s got the league record for interceptions. He’s the consummate professional. He’s always perfecting his craft even after retirement. We figured it would be good for him to figure out “how I threw all those interceptions; there must have been more at play besides that. I’m the consummate gunslinger.”

bc: How are you addressing some of the more generic, industrywide trends these days such as food safety, transparency and healthfulness? 

Ruhland: Those obviously are very important to us and have a role in our communications but right now it’s about the unseen force and Brett wondering who made those plays.

The appetites and palates of consumers are a constantly shifting thing. Every restaurant brand’s responsibility is to continually improve and optimize to provide the best customer service and do everything a brand needs to do to stay relevant and differentiated.

bc: The G-men-like figures in the first ad reminded me of the aliens in the old Fringe TV series. Was that your inspirationi?

Ruhland: The inspiration was a past time in a Brett dream sequence. How would he dream? Bringing in some people who were extraordinary would be a way to make it more impactful to the viewer.

Buffalo Wild Wings


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