By Barry Janoff
September 11, 2013: ESPN, best known as the self-professed "worldwide leader in sports," has also attempted to become a player in food with its ESPN Zone restaurants.
Following the closure in 2010 of most of its ESPN Zone locations, ESPN is again trying its hand at eatables via a new alliance with Applebee's.
ESPN has unveiled the ESPN Fan Zone within Applebee's locations nationwide. The relationship also includes Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors and Pepsi. Financial terms were not disclosed.
According to Ed Erhardt, president, ESPN global customer marketing and sales, “At ESPN our mission is to serve fans and the ESPN Fan Zone extends that mission directly into fans’ favorite neighborhood bar and grill.”
Applebee's competitors such as Buffalo Wild Wings, which is an official NCAA partner, Dave & Buster's and Hooters are also positioned as destinations for sports fans.
Applebee's-branded ESPN Fan Zone includes a new Game Time Menu (with such selections as Boo Yah! Brew Pretzels, First Down Spinach & Artichoke dip, Team Wonton Tacos and Boom Boom Boneless Buffalo Wings); and a Fan Scan smartphone game, accessible only at ESPN Fan Zones at Applebee's, which gives people an opportunity to win weekly instant prizes and three grand prizes.
ESPN and Applebee's are supporting with a national TV spot starring ESPN anchor/analyst/commentator Chris Berman. Berman was on-location on this week to help unveil ESPN Fan Zone at Applebee's.
In his TV spot, Berman is seen getting up-close and personal with Applebee's customers who are also trying to watch sports events on TVs in the restaurant. The over-enthusiastic Berman eventually is asked to move. (See the full spot here.)
“ESPN has become synonymous with game day," Mike Archer, president of Applebee’s president, said in a statement. "Bringing that viewing experience to Applebee’s gives our sports-crazed guests the electric atmosphere of watching the big game on TV with the neighborhood.”
Applebee's based in Kansas City, Mo., said it has about 2,000 locations in 49 states.
ESPN previously had, and in June 2010 shuttered, ESPN Zone restaurants in New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C. Two locations remain in Southern California but are operated by AEG.
ESPN also has an ESPN Club at Disney's Boardwalk and ESPN Grill at ESPN Wide World of Sports, both in the Disney World complex in Orlando.
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