Chicago Fire and Quaker: One Year Later

USA TODAY Sports

It's been over a year since the Quaker jersey sponsorship start. How's their sponsoring?

When the Chicago Fire released a video highlighting some 'quirky changes' at Quaker since the Chicago Fire/Quaker partnership had started, for a brief while I thought it had been a year to the date since things had been made official.

Time flies when you are having fun I guess because the news leaked out via Crain's Chicago Business on January 16, 2012. The official press conference was on January 20, 2012.

My perspective of the three-year deal with Quaker remains very positive. Quaker is a 'fun company' you can use to appeal to all ages unlike say, Kansas City's jersey sponsor of Ivy Funds or Chivas USA's jersey sponsor of Corona. Don't get me wrong, those Corona commercials imply there's always a party when the brew is around but it's tough to incorporate their product into youth orientated concepts. And sorry Ivy Funds, there can only be one E*Trade baby.

The Chicago Fire Communications and Marketing Departments deserve big praise for not letting this golden opportunity go to waste. Here are some great items or videos that have created some laughs and earned media for the team.

Logan Pause Kicks the Ball Around Quaker

The first recognition of the sponsorship that came from the Chicago Fire's website was a video of Logan Pause kicking a soccer ball around Quaker's headquarters, going around Chicago, and then showing up at Toyota Park. At the end of the video, he comes out of the tunnel at Toyota Park and shows off the brand new Fire jersey.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber told Chicago Fire owner Andrew Hauptman that it was one of the coolest roll-out videos he had ever seen. Garber might be biased given the subject matter but it's a hard point to argue. The video connected some Chicago institutions with great scenery of the city along the way.

Many Fire fans saw the new jersey for the first time by watching that video. It was impossible for outsiders peering in to miss the strong Chicago tie-in.

Press Release in a Canister

Chicago Fire themed Quaker Oats canisters were distributed to press near and far. Each canister contained a customized jersey, some Quaker goodies, and a great deal of language on what the new partnership meant for club and company.

The Quaker Corner

There aren't specific articles dedicated to the Quaker Corner, but the northeast corner of the stadium is dedicated to Quaker. The aisles are painted in Quaker's colors. People around the Quaker corner get free Quaker items thrown their way when the Fire have corner kicks. Since most t-shirts from t-shirt cannons fall apart after 3 days anyway, I'd rather have the cookies instead. Bakery items also take us back to the kids appeal.

Throwing beer into the crowd undoubtedly would have a positive response. It also brings up all kind of dangers.

Rookie of the Year on a Cereal Box

Berry Life: the sequel to Press Release in a Canister.

Quaker allowed the Fire to make modifications to the iconic Quaker Oats canister so I'm sure that made it a much easier ask when the front office wanted to mark up Life Cereal boxes for Austin Berry's Rookie of the Year campaign. There wasn't quite as much detail but then again this was a smaller campaign.

The results were equally impressive.

Chicago and national media both featured the box prominently. Berry won Rookie of the Year in a landslide decision. I'm sure Berry's play had more to do with it but hey, the creative box got lots of earned media.

Quaker Up: Bobble Heads

The Chicago Fire are going to give out a Quaker Up Bobblehead for the July 7th game against Kansas City. Voting for the player that will be featured on the Quaker Up Bobblehead ended Sunday.

Quaker Up is the trademark for the company's new initiative to reach out to younger moms (as summarized by the New York Times). It will be interesting to see what the final bobblehead design looks like and if it meets the Quaker Up vision of bolder colors and a more modern look for Larry, the Quaker guy.

Quaker Quirky Video

After this Quaker Cookie video that shows the players should certainly stick to their day jobs, it makes one truly appreciate the concept behind the Quaker Quirky video. It's also nice to see Quaker getting their office involved in the product of the team. Great job of incorporating Fire fan and player culture into the work environment at Quaker.

Sponsorship Going Forward

July 2013 will mark the halfway point for the 3 year, roughly $8M sponsorship between Quaker and the Chicago Fire. It's a partnership that I hope to see continue but the Fire-Best Buy sponsorship ceased even though (or in fact, because) Best Buy hit all their goals.

In some ways, that's why really I like Quaker's Chicago roots. The company has a reason to continue to be invested in the Chicago community. Their headquarters have been here for quite awhile. There's going to be a continuing value for them in supporting the community even if they continue to hit their goals. I could see them stepping back from being a jersey sponsor. I could see them hopping back into the jersey sponsorship at some point even if they didn't renew for the 2016 season and beyond.

Quaker and the Fire might run out of products to collaborate on but there are plenty of things they could do to generate some buzz. One idea I especially like is Quaker purchasing a large amount of tickets at a big discount for a U.S. Open Cup game and shuttling employees from Quaker Plaza to Toyota Park. Talk about a wonderful corporate outing.

Various members of the Fire front office have lamented throughout the years that U.S. Open Cup games don't have a full atmosphere because only a couple of thousand people show up for a game that's on a Tuesday and on short notice. However, one of the liveliest games I've ever been to was the 2011 U.S. Open Cup game between the Chicago Fire and the New York Red Bulls. The Fire fans that do go to these U.S. Open Cup games tend to be the most active. If you combine these active fans with a large base of Quaker employees and perhaps even their friends and family, you can really get a nice buzz going throughout the stadium.

Chicago will need to win a coin flip in order to host their first (and hopefully not last) U.S. Open Cup game in 2013 but this would be a nice sight to see on May 28 if the game is played at Toyota Park.

As I mentioned, there are many other collaboration possibilities out there. The Chicago Fire and Quaker have impressed so far. I look forward to seeing what they can cook up next.

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