Monday, November 14, 2011

Safeway Puts its Brand on Ice in San Francisco For the Holidays

Branding on ice: The Safeway logo covers the middle of the ice rink above.

Private Brand Showcase

Pleasanton, California-based Safeway Stores, Inc. is extending its brand to an outdoor venue that defines fun, excitement and entertainment during the November -to- January holiday season.

That outdoor venue is the Safeway Holiday Ice Rink in San Francisco's Union Square.

The popular ice rink in Union Square, a shopping area in the heart of the city that's packed with huge department stores like Macy's, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale's and Saks Fifth Avenue, along with scores of other retail shops, boutiques, restaurants and cafes, opened November 9, and runs until January 16, 2001.

Safeway, which has a long history of business - it has 14 supermarkets in the city of nearly 900,000 which is located about 30 miles from the Pleasanton corporate headquarters - civic and public involvement in San Francisco, has sponsored the Union Square Ice Rink since 2007.

In addition to the supermarket chain's lead and named sponsorship, a number of other businesses, such as department store retailer Macy's and Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, which was founded in the city-by-the-bay, along with a number of radio and television stations, have signed on as co-sponsors of the Safeway Ice Rink in Union Square.

As part of its sponsorship, Safeway Stores, Inc. is helping to keep the cost of using the ice rink low - tickets cost just $10 for adults and $6 for kids eight years-old or younger. Ice skate and hockey skate rentals, for those who don't have their own, which is probably a fairly high number of people in San Francisco where it's know to get chilly - but not that chilly - are $5 pair

There are also specialty group rates, starting for parties of 15 or more persons.

A portion of ticket proceeds are being donated to the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco and the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department.

And to make the day or night on the ice last a bit longer, there's even a photo booth at the union square ice rink, which is open from 10 a.m-11:30 p.m daily, where skaters can have their photographs taken for $2 a pop. The photos are printed out on the spot. The photo machine will also send a digital version to your e-mail address.

The logo above is used in various places around the ice rink to reinforce the Safeway brand and the grocer's sponsorship.
The Safeway sponsored and branded Union Square Ice Rink is also holding a number of special events for the public this month and in December.

The first event was the opening of the ice rink last week. The opening ceremonies, which were held from 9 a.m-10 .a.m on November 9, was hosted by "The Ghost of Christmas Past," a member of the cast of San Francisco's internationally renown American Conservatory Theater's annual A Christmas Carol production.

Among other opening morning festivities on the ice was a performance by the popular Irish tenor Michael Londra, who is currently staring in Celtic Yuletide at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre in the city. Londra performed his hit song "Beyond A Star."
Skaters enjoy the Safeway Holiday Ice Rink over the weekend.
On November 25 the Safeway Ice Rink will be a part of San Francisco's annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony at Union Square, which is held each year the day after Thanksgiving.

But in typical San Francisco style - and flair - the two other events planned for the Safeway Ice Rink are a bit less traditional.

On December 1, the rink is hosting Speed Dating Skating, which is an on-the-ice version of speed dating. The singles, which there are many of in San Francisco, are being invited to wear their most unusual holiday-inspired sweater as a way to "break the ice" and get conversations started, which in-turn might lead to a future date - or even one later that night.

There's also an interesting freebie included as part of the event: The first 100 singles to arrive get a mistletoe headband, which should spark a little more than just conversation while on the ice.

The "singles night" event happens to share a "branding" angle with one of Safeway's stores in San Francisco - although we're not sure the ice rink's producers were aware of it or had it top-of-mind when planning the event.

Safeway's store in the city's Marina District - where former chairman and CEO Peter McGowan, who also led the ownership group that kept the San Francisco Giants from moving out of the city over a decade ago, has lived for many years - is known as the "Singles Safeway" because of the number of single people who first met in the aisles of the supermarket. Many of those meetings led to a first date - and often two, three or more and, in some cases, even marriage.

In June Safeway Stores, Inc. held this event - Safeway Has A Picnic in San Francisco Featuring the 'World's Longest Picnic Table' to Showcase its 'Open Nature' Natural Foods' Brand - on the Marina Green, which is across the street from the Marina Safeway store in San Francisco.

But the city's unique style and flair really comes out in full bloom on 8 (8-9:30 p.m) when the ice rinks promoter is presenting Drag Queens on Ice.

Willy Bietak Productions, the producer for the Safeway Ice Rink in Union Square, tells us it's giving Santa a break for the night and instead it's invited a number of the San Francisco Bay Area's most colorful professional drag performers to skate and perform at the rink.

The promoter says its also inviting the public to don their own wigs and outfits and skate alongside the Drag Queens during the evening.

Prediction: Not only will it be a colorful evening but you can also bet the photo booth at the ice rink will be getting a lot of use and bringing in plenty of cash during the event.

Sponsoring the holiday ice rink is smart marketing and provides a major branding-plus for Safeway Stores in the San Francisco Bay Area and corporately, in our analysis.

Why? It's the holidays, a time of joy and family, it's an ice rink in San Francisco, a once-a year-event (although this year the city has two such outdoor rinks for the holidays) and its fun.

Therefore as the sponsor of the ice rink in Union Square, Safeway gets its eponymous brand, which it also uses in various versions as a product brand - Safeway, Safeway Select, Safeway Kitchens, Safeway Farms - on food, grocery and general merchandise products in its stores, associated with holiday joy, individual and family fun, a unique, once-a-year experience, and fun and happiness.

All the characteristics noted above pretty much sum up a marketer's dream list when it comes to branding.

Many Bay Area television and radio stations are co-sponsors of the Safeway Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square. Each year since 2007 these and other local broadcast and print media outlets provide millions of dollars worth (if it were paid advertising) of free publicity for the event - and thus to Safeway Stores' as the sponsor.

It's all third-party endorsement publicity as well - television coverage of the skaters and special events at the rink, radio stations producing and airing live remotes from the venue, photographs and stories in the local papers -which is much more powerful from a marketing perspective than paid advertising is.

Putting its Safeway brand on ice in San Francisco, which is the "go to" city for residents of Northern California, where Safeway is the market share leader with about 250 supermarkets (the second highest U.S. division in gross sales after Vons' in Southern California), is not only a "cool" thing for Safeway Stores, Inc., to do, it's also good business - and smart branding.

Related Stories

October 26, 2011: Farms ... at Safeway? Grocer Launches its Newest Private Brand ... 'Safeway Farms'

June 19, 2011: Safeway Has A Picnic in San Francisco Featuring the 'World's Longest Picnic Table' to Showcase its 'Open Nature' Natural Foods' Brand

May 28, 2011: At The 'Brand Factory': Safeway Stores' Launches Newest Private Brand - 'Safeway Kitchens'

February 7, 2011: Getting There First...Plus, Are Tesco's Fresh & Easy and Safeway Traveling Down A Similar Private Brand Aisle?

January 5, 2011: Safeway Adds 'Open Nature' to its Natural-Organic-Healthy Foods' Private Brand Portfolio

April 8, 2011: The Branded 'Signature Cafe' in Safeway Stores' Soon to Open 'Social Safeway' in Washington D.C. Should Turn A Few Heads

July 21, 2010: 'Sipsational' & 'Quenchtastic': Safeway Introduces New 21-Flavor Line of Soft Drinks Under 'refreshe' Private Brand

Click on this link -  - to read additional stories about Safeway.

Click on this link - - to read past stories in our 'Private Brand Showcase' feature.

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