football cupcakes
Art Eats Bakery in Greenville, SC, bring bakery samples to nearby universities to promote products.

According to a 2012 research initiative by The Tailgating Industry Association, 76.5% of retailers agreed that the total tailgating marketplace is $20 billion annually. This includes tailgating’s sibling, homegating, and presents an opportunity for retail bakeries to capitalize on during a football season that lasts from late August to early February.

Football season matches up well with the retail bakery in another way, as well. A study by Rasmussen Reports states that 39% of college football fans forget about their diets while watching their favorite team play. Find the two or three most popular teams in your area, merchandise products in your store to reflect those teams and market those products within your community to instantly increase sales.

Gear up

Like football itself, preparation makes the difference between solid execution and breakdown. Not only does this mean adjusting inventory, but it also means getting a marketing plan together. “We start figuring out what we want to do in late July, and then we start getting the marketing materials out in late August,” says Jackie Bishop, owner and cake artist at Art Eats Bakery in Greenville, SC. “We go to the schools and give out marketing materials that are geared to football season. We’ll do little samples to take to the schools when go.” 

Marketing today encompasses whatever means you can utilize to get the word out. In addition to taking samples to the local colleges, mainly Clemson and The University of South Carolina, Art Eats Bakery uses social media and some old school techniques as well. “We do a combination of things,” Bishop says. “We do Facebook and all of the social networking. We use our website, our business cards, fliers and all that. We do all of the above.”

One of the more traditional marketing tools that Art Eats Bakery employs is handing out a monthly calendar on campus and customized for football season. “If we’re going to Clemson, we’ll add a special just for them with a card we’ll put on there,” Bishop says. “It might have a buy two get one free Clemson themed cupcakes or something like that.” She goes on to say that it’s important to look at the schedule as home games are generally better for specials. “Although a lot of people will buy stuff and take it wherever they’re going.”

Product strategy

Traditionally, Art Eats Bakery offered exclusively custom order cakes, but it’s beginning to cater to a wider variety of consumer. “We’ve changed our strategy a little bit,” Bishop says. “We’re trying to do some things that are a little bit more on the lower price side for the customers who just want to buy a few things to take to the game.” Art eats bakery also added a consummate seller, the ever growing and popular cupcake.

The cupcakes also appeal to the customer who doesn’t necessarily want to spend the money required for a custom cake. “We used to not do cupcakes and we’re adding that on too,” Bishop says. Cupcakes with a sugar-tiger-paw for Clemson and gamecocks logo for South Carolina give Art Eats Bakery’s customers the ability to choose the amount of money they want to spend and still get a nice looking product for the game, she adds.

Figuring out the future

Getting product to the game, on game day, creates a great opportunity for consumers to impulse buy, but it’s easier said than done, and delivering to tailgaters at the stadium has the potential to cost more than it’s worth. “If we could work out a place to set up a tent,” Bishop says, “that’s one of the things we’re trying to figure out if they’re going to let us do that or not.” With concessions and contracts, it could be tough to get a spot for retail at your local stadium.

Art Eats Bakery came up with another idea for getting into Clemson or South Carolina on game day. Bishop is working on a plan to get in touch with some other small businesses that are already established and try to work something out that way. “They might be happy to have a percentage of the profits or a little rent money for us to go down and set up the morning of the game,” Bishop says.