Kwik Fill’s Summer Promotion Fuels Sales


Event marketing, sweepstakes and a NASCAR tie-in make for a successful campaign

Building on its unique message of offering “American-made” gasoline, Kwik Fill/Red Apple found new customers and sales growth with its “Driving America Tour and Sweepstakes” promotion this summer.

With its crude oil coming from Canada and refined by parent United Refining Co. of Warren, Pa., Kwik Fill/Red Apple leveraged a NASCAR sponsorship and “experiential” marketing, tied to a sweepstakes for a chance to win a $16,000 Smart car, to lift merchandise sales 5.5 percent in its 292 locations for the first six months of the year.

“We’re trying to project to our customers who we really are and foster the good response we’ve had to our advertising American-made gasoline,” said Vice President of Retail Pete Conley. “We’re one of the last regional refineries marketing in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, but we also sell merchandise. Many people participating in our events are coming away with a new perception of the Kwik Fill/Red Apple stores.”

Already strengthened by a four-year campaign featuring Kwik Fill’s credit card, which carries a five-cent per-gallon discount, the c-store operator developed this summer’s program to pique greater consumer interest in the brand and participating manufacturers’ products, said Brian J. Fleischman, president and managing partner of SourceONE, the New York-based firm that designed and executed the campaign. “We were able to increase Kwik Fill’s resources coming from manufacturers, and drive sales and exposure through cross-promotional programming.”

In April, Kwik Fill/Red Apple teamed with Zippo Manufacturing Co., based 30 miles from the retailer’s hometown of Warren, Pa., to cosponsor NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Marcos Ambrose in the Zippo 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series at Watkins Glen International Aug. 7. The two companies and the Driving America Tour program partners shared sponsorship of the driver’s No. 47 Kwik Fill/Zippo Toyota car.

“This partnership provided an unprecedented opportunity for Zippo, our promotional partners and Kwik Fill to connect with our consumers, drive sales and strengthen our brands in a unique way,” noted Lance Pangborn, Kwik Fill’s director of marketing.

For every dollar that partners invested in the program, they received “a tremendous return on investment,” Fleischman said. “It included unique media exposure, increased distribution opportunities at the store level and cross-promotional opportunities to which the competition could not compare.” For Zippo, the cross-promotional opportunity with Kwik Fill opened the door to putting Zippo lighters in more than 100 stores.

Leveraging this sponsorship and promotion, Kwik Fill/Red Apple participated in seven community events throughout New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, including the Lilac Festival in Rochester, N.Y.; Big Butler Fair in Butler, Pa.; and the Taste of Syracuse and Taste of Buffalo festivals. The event-marketing component entailed a large-scale interactive display booth with high-definition televisions playing Kwik Fill commercials; Kwik Fill- and partner- branded merchandise giveaways; new-to-market product sampling that elicited consumer feedback for participating vendors; and couponing that drove foot traffic into stores. To draw additional attention to the Kwik Fill/ Red Apple booth, the retailer hired local singer Shawn Wilder to perform, and displayed a life-size model of the race car it sponsored and the customized Smart car. A local actress featured in the chain’s “Americana” commercials made appearances at every event.

“This celebrity appearance element was a unique way to bring the commercial spots to life and connect emotionally with our consumers,” Conley said.

Fleischman added: “Our display was interactive and appealed to a broad demographic. People were immersed in the Kwik Fill brand, driving consumer interest at the grassroots level, which allowed us an unprecedented ability to influence buying decisions. Traditional event-marketing displays feature only one main element and are less appealing to the masses.”

The Taste of Buffalo, for example, typically attracts 400,000 people over two days. “We were the only c-store marketer participating and by design one of the most unique displays,” the marketing guru said. “We quickly became the main attraction. Our promotional model provides incremental sales gains at the store and millions of dollars of brand awareness for Kwik Fill/Red Apple and our partners.”

The strategy gave Kwik Fill/Red Apple store-level, merchandising and advertising personnel the ability to reach customers and potential customers outside the store, Conley said. “Based on our coupon redemption we believe we’re rewarding our regular customers and seeing new customers coming into our locations. We had a store outside of Jamestown, N.Y., serve a customer with a coupon from a Driving America Tour event that was more than 70 miles away. This has had a ripple effect.”

Simultaneously, the retailer ran its sweepstakes in May, June and July, awarding the Smart car Aug. 8, after 10 Kwik Fill/Red Apple customers were chosen via random drawing and were treated to VIP treatment at a Glen Watkins NASCAR race. Other winners received high-definition TVs and Kwik Fill gas cards. To gain eligibility to the Smart car sweepstakes, customers purchased a participating vendor’s product and were rewarded for repeat product buys. Among the partners for 2010 were Jack Links, Frito- Lay, Red Bull, Meadowbrook Dairy, PepsiCo, Dr Pepper/Snapple Group, Hershey, International Delight, Cadbury Adams and the Pennsylvania Lottery.

In the chain’s stores, clerks received incentives — including cash, prizes and a trip to the NASCAR race — to upsell the promotional products in the partnership. “As a result of our activation plan, we saw this program outsell the manufacturer products in the competition’s stores significantly,” Fleischman said. “This is leading manufacturers to want to invest more marketing and merchandising dollars with Kwik Fill than they have in the past, because of incremental sales.”

Store managers were introduced to the Driving America Tour and Sweepstakes in April at the chain’s annual manager meeting and trade show. “They were made aware of the coupons we’d be distributing and how customers needed to fill out an entry blank to earn a chance in the sweepstakes,” Conley said. “We had the occasional issue of someone working part-time at night or weekends who may not have executed it perfectly, but overall, the management team did a fine job bringing the program to the attention of store employees and letting them know what their responsibilities were.”

Along with the sweepstakes participation and product sampling at events, vendors were given priority placement in the stores and Kwik Fill media exposure.

“Everyone’s been happy with the results of this campaign,” Conley said. “Our team of associates and partners are coming up with ideas to make next year’s program as good as, if not better, than this year’s.”

For comments, please contact Barbara Grondin Francella, Senior Editor, at [email protected].

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