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Midwest Retailer of the Year

Sports Partnerships Help Showcase Burgeoning Brand

Hy-Vee

Competition is ingrained into human nature. Competition can be found between friends, rivals, businesses and communities. Hy-Vee, The Shelby Report of the Midwest’s Retailer of the Year, has a long history of suppporting amazing competition in sports on a local, national and now international level. 

The most recent example of a sporting partnership was the Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend. Held July 22-24 at Iowa Speedway, about 30 minutes east of Hy-Vee’s headquarters in West Des Moines, it marked the company’s first major foray into racing. The grocer sponsored the full weekend of racing and several cars. The main one, the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda, was driven by Jack Harvey. 

The weekend kicked off with Free Family Friday, during which fans could enjoy driver autograph sessions, Victory Lane visits, live music and more than 50 food trucks. 

It was the only doubleheader race of the 2022 NTT INDYCAR Series. Saturday’s race was the Hy-VeeDeals.com 250 presented by DoorDash, while Sunday’s was the Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 presented by Google.

Hy-Vee
Tim McGraw

The weekend also featured performances from musical artists Tim McGraw, Florida Georgia Line, Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton. 

The company’s decision to move into INDYCAR sponsorship started with Chairman and Executive Director Randy Edeker, who had begun following European-based, Formula One racing and saw how quickly it was gaining popularity. 

“If you look at Formula One, their numbers are up unbelievably internationally. If you look at their shift, their greatest growth categories is with 18 to 35 [year olds] because they developed a game and a Netflix show called ‘Drive to Survive,’” he said. “I looked in the U.S. and thought, ‘Who’s most like that?’ It’s INDYCAR.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Hy-Vee had run a car in the INDYCAR series with driver Graham Rahal. 

“We formed a partnership with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing to run a partial season,” Edeker said. “I watched it and I measured it with what we thought that we could do with it. I believe that INDYCAR in the United States could be a rival to Formula One if they formulate the path that Formula One alreay has.”

This is where the idea to showcase Hy-Vee’s newest online offerings formulated in Edeker’s mind.

“That’s why we initially got into it. Then we asked, ‘How do we apply it?’ Hy-VeeDeals.com, WholeLotta Good, PetShip and RedBox RX pharmacy all were in their infancy,” he said. “We started looking at how we drive our social media brands and HSTV. We thought INDYCAR was worth the investment. We decided we would tie it into the race itself because the INDYCAR races are national.”

This year’s race weekend was a rousing success. Nearly 60 percent of the total tickets sold were from out-of-state fans. Across the three days, the event drew more than 80,000 fans, which represented one of the largest weekends in the 16-year history of Iowa Speedway, according to a Hy-Vee press release. 

According to NBC Sports Network, the two races drew a television plus digital audience of more than 1.7 million and delivered some of INDYCAR’s top social media engagement of the year. Across all social channels, the weekend surpassed total engagement with hundreds of thousands of video views. While the exact economic impact of the event is still being tabulated, the effects are certain to linger.

The weekend was a resounding success for the community and for the state of Iowa and race fans. It was more than just a race, the marketing and operations team earned credit for creating a whole festival atmosphere with top-tier talent.

Hy-Vee

 

This is not the only national sports partnership for the company has ties with the Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings and, most recently, the Green Bay Packers. This carries with it the ability to sell products with the teams’ logos or players’ names attached.

Titletown, a park that sits outside of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, welcomed Hy-Vee in early September, officially naming it Hy-Vee Plaza “to be a gathering space at the heart of Titletown.” 

Alongside this, Hy-Vee launched exclusive cereals featuring Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. The proceeds from these cereals will benefit the Thielen Foundation and the 87 & Running Foundation, respectively. Both organizations aim to support youth through mentorship, athletics and critical life skills. Hy-Vee has had other iterations of this program such as its partnership with Kirk Cousins last year. 

While it does help the brand become more recognizable, it also has intangible benefits, according to Donna Tweeten, EVP, chief marketing officer and chief of staff. These come from the connection to the community they are targeting.

“Our sports marketing has been community based, whether that’s supporting a high school team, college team or a pro team that happens to be in the market that we do business in,” she said. “Embedding ourselves in the community, sharing that fandom has been beneficial to us…there’s more blue sky engagement that we get with our fans. 

“Through our sponsorships…you can see engagement, specifically on social media. When people think about the Vikings or Chiefs game this Sunday, they’re thinking Hy-Vee. We know this. We’ve tested. We’ve done the research and have the results to prove it.”

Hy-Vee

Every time the Chiefs play a home game, people from around the country can see the team enter or exit its tunnel with a Hy-Vee logo on top. 

“Everyone’s in sync in every store doing the same thing in terms of these sports marketing efforts…it allows us a local and national platform to advertise Hy-VeeDeals.com or Redbox Rx or e-commerce,” Tweeten said. “It gets our brand out there in a national audience, which only serves us better for other growth opportunities.”

Hy-Vee is an employee-owned business, which allows its stores large amounts of autonomy for partnerships down on a smaller scale. That could be promoting and sponsoring the local high school, church, band or food bank. Hy-Vee has been using this autonomy, specifically within sports to help promote a wider range of campaigns and services. 

“It all comes back to showcasing the brand,” Tweeten said.

For example, the INDYCAR races and traveling NFL teams will provide a useful avenue to get Hy-Vee’s name into unfamiliar markets. 

“The [race] was a fantastic event that got a lot of positive press for Hy-Vee awareness. It helped catapult the reach of our digital properties,” Tweeten said.

For more information, visit hyveeindycarweekend.com.

To read more about The Shelby Report of the Midwest’s Retailer of the Year, click here.

About the author

Jack R. Jordan

Content Creator

Jordan joined The Shelby Report in May 2022 after over a year in the newspaper industry. A native of Marietta, Georgia, he studied writing and communications at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. He spends too much time in the grocery store trying to find recipe ingredients, so he looks forward to covering the industry.

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