KANSAS CITY, MO — For bakeries looking to increase brand awareness, attract a new consumer demographic or maintain a loyal fan base, engaging in a corporate sponsorship can be an effective strategy for companies of all sizes. But it’s not as simple as signing on the dotted line and sending a check. These types of business-to-business relationships need time to reach their full potential and require thoughtful preplanning and a commitment to playing the long game.

Paul Zindrick, VP of corporate sponsorships for Brand Activation Maximizer (BAM), a sports and entertainment marketing agency, advises companies considering a corporate sponsorship to think about three things.

“First, how much do you want to spend for the sponsorship and activation?” he suggested. “Second, how are you going to leverage the sponsorship against your corporate strategies? In other words, why are you doing this? And third, what does success look like and how are you measuring it?”


This is advice Horsham, PA-based Bimbo Bakeries USA (BBU) took to heart six years ago when it was further developing its shopper marketing program. As part of that effort, the baking company explored how to partner with its largest grocery customer, The Kroger Co., and the grocer’s NASCAR racing team.

“Sports marketing and consumer marketing play together from a sense of ‘How can we surprise and delight our shoppers on a regular basis with the brands they love and create excitement?’” said Ken Gronholm, senior sales director and Kroger team lead for BBU. “We thought it would be a good idea,
as a joint partnership, to see the benefits on both sides. Being a part of this race partnership is one way we’ve been able to do that.”

The partnership is a collaboration between BBU, Kroger, the race team and BAM, with the agency bringing everything together.

From the start, BBU understood that optimizing the partnership meant full participation.

“If you don’t have the resources — or a plan to get the resources — to activate a sponsorship, then it’s probably a waste of money.” — Chimene Ross | president | The Killer Brownie Co.


“We didn’t want to just check a box with the partnership,” Gronholm said. “We decided that if we were going to invest, we were going to be all-in and make sure we were getting value out of it. We’ve worked with BAM to develop the program over time with the goal of being best-in-class and becoming the benchmark for success. One of the keys to elevate our game was working hard on the division activation plan. This has evolved over time and brings us the ability to activate locally and get more ‘personal’ with the shoppers leveraging our world-class DSD system.”

Engaging the help of an agency or brand consulting firm with experience in navigating large-scale corporate sponsorships has its benefits.

“Having a trusted guide within this world is really important,” Zindrick said. “We understand the landscape and are experts in helping negotiate sponsorship packages. We know how to guide companies based on strategic initiatives, what to suggest and then couple that with the activation side of things.”

On the flip side, Dayton, OH-based The Killer Brownie Co. proved it’s possible to successfully negotiate and activate a large-scale sponsorship using just internal resources. The company entered into a multi-year partnership with the Cincinnati Bengals NFL team in 2022.


“We paid for the intellectual property and the use of the Bengals’ marks to be able to promote our brand,” said Chimene Ross, president of The Killer Brownie Co. “It was really up to us to decide how to blow it up. You have to be willing to commit the time, energy, resources and money to activate it. If you don’t have the resources — or a plan to get the resources — to activate a sponsorship, then it’s probably a waste of money.”

The company’s four-person marketing team developed and implemented a full-scale activation strategy.

“We did a lot to activate the sponsorship, and it was all really scrappy,” said Jessica Uttinger, director of marketing and creative for The Killer Brownie Co. “Our biggest investment was in wrapped buses with banners that said, ‘Official Brownie of the Bengals,’ with a massive picture of our brownie and the Bengals stripes on the side. Everything else was just what we could pull off in-house.”

This story has been adapted from the April | Q2 2024 issue of Commercial Baking. Read the full story in the digital edition here.