This case study looks into the Burger King x Stevenage Football Club campaign that was so innovative and fresh, that it left a lasting impression on the minds of the fans even after years.
The Stevenage Football Club is a humble League Two Team. In the lowest division (D4) of the English soccer league’s four divisions, Stevenage finished second to bottom. In essence, it was a team that the general public knew little about. However, it rose to prominence in FIFA ’20, courtesy of a successful marketing and business strategy implemented by the fast-food company Burger King.
A Sneak Peek
Every year, a new instalment of the FIFA video game series is released. FIFA’s video games are incredibly realistic. They expertly mimic football stadiums, press meetings, and individual football players’ physical characteristics. FIFA is very attentive to the jerseys and the logo that is shown on them.
To promote its brand, Burger King wanted to sponsor a football team and have their trademarks shown on the players’ uniforms. The goal was to turn a small-time squad into one of the top online sports organizations in the world. They would receive the most exposure by doing this. However, bankruptcy was the one thing they wished to avoid.
Burger King moved their attention to the virtual world while the real Stevenage Club received very little publicity. The season that would have resulted in the Stevenage Football Club’s downfall was stopped by COVID-19, making them the least fortunate English team in all of FIFA ’20. They would not have been able to participate in the game at all.
An Unprecedented Deal
In soccer, branding holds significant value due to the extensive fanbase. Burger King endorsed Stevenage Football Club in 2019, showcasing its logo on the team’s shirts, which also featured in FIFA ’20. This partnership offered the burger chain exposure to a vast audience through the team’s official jersey in the game.
The answer they proposed? online game. FIFA, more precisely!
With this ground-breaking sponsorship, FIFA’s virtual world saw the real-world shirt marketing gimmick transposed. The target audience changed to FIFA players and viewers of Twitch streams rather than spectators cheering in a stadium or watching the games on television. Burger King intended to breach the system by sneaking their logo into the game. And they did so in two stages:
- Sponsor a team that would
- Appear in the FIFA 2020 edition
- Not cost a dozen million per year
- Matching jersey colors
- Find a way to draw attention to the team. With the introduction of the social media challenge, they were able to accomplish this.
Players in FIFA can select a career mode. They can act out the part of a club manager starting a multi-season career there. Choose a weaker club and push it to the top as one strategy for this mode. The Stevenage Challenge was focused on just this.
The Stevenage Challenge
In FIFA’s career mode, players step into the role of a club manager for a multi-season journey. Burger King’s ‘Stevenage Challenge’ encouraged gamers to choose the underdog, Stevenage, and score goals while offering rewards for meeting specific criteria, such as winning a free menu item by scoring directly from a corner kick and sharing the achievement on social media.
The underdog concept embodied the players’ interest in playing as Stevenage, the team stranded at the bottom of the standings. Additionally, online accomplishments would deliver free hamburgers to your door. It turns out that the challenge was released at the same time as BK joined forces with Uber Eats. For the roughly 10 million FIFA ’20 gamers, having the meal brought to them proved the challenge even more alluring. The concept successfully merged the internet and offline worlds. It’s possible that BK even started the offline partnership with Stevenage in order to launch the online concept. Additionally, it made use of common user behavior: many FIFA players love playing the smaller clubs.
It was a success! Whooper’s owners claim-
- Over 25,000 goals were scored and shared online while wearing an SFC jersey.
- Even in the career mode of the game, when users acquire the best players to develop under this shirt wearing the BK insignia, SFC was the most frequently used team.
- For the first time in SFC’s 43-year history, there was a lack of jerseys on hand.
- It claimed earned media revenue of $2.5M.
- 1.2 billion campaign impressions
Previously unknown Stevenage had enormous prominence in the gaming industry and made money off of a few shirts. BK increased its exposure, received marketing honors, and increased its stake in Uber Eats.
More significantly, in a world that often depicts them in gloomy tones, gamers felt respected and understood. Everyone achieved which is possibly why BK chose to continue on the same path even further. Burger King increased the scope of its sponsorship agreement in 2020 to include the Stevenage women’s squad. A Burger Queen shirt and a successful marketing campaign were the results.
Match of the day host and high profile personality in the football realm, Gary Linekar, and Rugby World Cup Winner Bryan Habana were among the sporting names who praised the campaign.
— Stevenage FC 🔴⚪ (@StevenageFC) May 21, 2021
— FANexperience👏 (@FanexperienceNL) September 26, 2020
Burger King’s daring strategy of partnering with a lesser-known squad for their campaign paid off with resounding success. This creative approach showcased alternative avenues for businesses to connect with their target markets, earning Burger King significant accolades and boosting the popularity of SFC in FIFA!