- Panera Bread is promoting its new flatbread pizzas by partnering with Pepsi in a multichannel campaign that includes a social media sweepstakes to win a virtual pizza party, according to an announcement. The brands released several spots starring Andrew "King Bach" Bachelor, showing how the actor and comedian prepares for a video call celebration while at home.
- Panera is giving away 1,000 electronic gift cards valued at $50 to order a flatbread pizza and Pepsi pairing for curbside pickup, drive-thru or delivery. To enter the daily drawing of 100 winners, Instagram and Twitter users must post a "virtual party selfie" while wearing a fancy top mismatched with pajama bottoms, as Bachelor does in the video spots.
- The brand partnership seeks to promote a new product and uses an internet personality to poke fun at a consumer trend that has been necessitated and accelerated by the pandemic. The contest began on Dec. 11 and runs through Dec. 20, per the announcement.
Panera and Pepsi's joint effort to promote a meal combination of the fast-casual chain's new flatbread pizza and drinks aims to reach a broad audience while engaging younger consumers on social media. By featuring King Bach, a former Vine star who was more than 20 million followers on Instagram and 2.5 million on Twitter, in a multichannel campaign that includes several video spots, the brands can drive viewership of its sponsored posts.
The videos capture a popular cultural trend of hosting virtual parties and cocktail hours on videoconferencing services like Zoom this year. As people participate in the sweepstakes to win gift cards, the campaign has a greater chance of going viral on Instagram and Twitter.
Amid the rise in social media usage among homebound consumers, brands like Panera and Pepsi have developed campaigns tapping into this behavior to get in front of potential customers. Among the more recent campaigns, Chipotle last month hosted a branded hashtag challenge on social video app TikTok. The "Chipotle Royalty" challenge gave fans a chance to win $10,000 by proving why their favorite burrito order was the best among more than 4 million possible combinations. Coors Light's "Build Your #Beerman" effort this month asked folks to share pictures on inspired by an awkward snowman character the beer brand introduced in a video ad. The winner of the contest will have their front yard transformed into a "winter wonderland." Diageo, Michelob Ultra, Stella Artois and Tums also have run social media challenges in recent weeks.
The idea of virtual pizza parties comes as fast-casual restaurant chains like Panera seek ways to drive sales while many consumers avoid dining rooms during the pandemic. With government officials reinstating lockdowns on indoor dining in heavily populated regions, such as New York City and parts of California, the restaurant industry has been forced to expand support for takeout and delivery services. It's not clear how the pandemic has affected Panera's sales, given that the company has been privately owned by JAB Holding since 2017, but it's likely the chain has faced revenue pressures similar to those of publicly traded companies like Chipotle Mexican Grill.