Pizza Hut is helping Barstool Sports take on the goal of expanding into college basketball

The quickest route to Gen Z and young millennials is through the stomach – or at least that’s what media outlet Barstool Sports is betting on with its partnership with Pizza Hut.

Barstool aims to expand beyond its media activities by hosting a collegiate basketball tournament called the Barstool Sports Basketball Invitational, which Pizza Hut sponsors to appeal to Gen Z and young millennial basketball fans. The media outlet is capitalizing on the hype with a goal of expanding its reach in the early days of college basketball, with teams like the University of Toledo Rockets, University of Alabama Blazers, University of Akron Zips and Mississippi State Bulldogs participating in the tournament.

Barstool and Pizza Hut ran a social media campaign to promote the tournament, leveraging Barstool’s extremely dedicated and loyal fan base. Aside from digital ads on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook, Barstool promoted short videos on TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram, all targeting Gen Z and Millennial consumers.

“We always have an ear to the ground, which keeps us ahead of the curve on emerging trends from sports to lifestyle to entertainment,” said Matt Berger, Svp and Head of Sales and Partnerships at Barstool Sports. “At Barstool, when we launch a personality or the brand on new platforms, our audience migrates with us.”

The financial agreement between Barstool and Pizza Hut was not disclosed.

To drive attendance and encourage more viewers to attend the Barstool Sports Basketball Invitational, Barstool has been promoting the event on all of its major social networks, including the Barstool Sports website, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and TikTok. In addition, Barstool personalities post content on their own social channels to increase interest and participation.

According to Berger, one of the main goals of Barstool’s partnership with Pizza Hut is to bring as much of Barstool’s talent to the show as possible. As part of this integration, they will also have opportunities to showcase Pizza Hut’s new Melts line of products, both in person at the event and during the broadcast, with stunts performed by barstool personality Spider, as well as a social media outlet game campaign. Barstool will use all of its social platforms to reward players with free pizza and Pizza Hut merchandise for making certain in-game moves.

Barstool Sports has Instagram (13.8 million followers), Twitter (4.5 million followers), TikTok (21 million followers), Facebook (4 million followers), YouTube (1.3 million subscribers) and Snapchat (398,000 followers), which is up 58% year-on-year compared to 2.5 million in 2021.

“Barstool has become the pre-eminent cultural launch pad and, as such, a barometer for the coveted and vibrant Millennial and Gen Z audience. Our core audience is males and females ages 18-34, and we have content that appeals to every sub-group and sub-group within this demo,” Berger said.

It’s unclear how much of Barstool’s advertising budget will be allocated to the tournament, as Berger declined to share details of the total budget. According to data from Pathmatics, the brand has spent just over $3.7 million on advertising efforts so far in 2022. Berger said the ad spend was dedicated to the social media platforms they used, but didn’t comment on how it was split across the platforms.

Gen Z want advertising to do things differently – ie faster – than previous generations. They are used to being marketed all the time because they grew up on social media. To build brand loyalty, immersive and experiential campaigns need to grab attention and be truly engaging, say marketers and agency leaders.

“Brands have historically found that sports partnerships thrive because they align them with the same passion inspired by their audience’s teams,” said Doug Gallow, associate partner of client engagement at VSA Partners, a hybrid branding strategy agency and design. “And it’s particularly effective for the Gen Z audience that Pizza Hut is trying to reach, because Barstool Sports has really tapped into this form of media that Gen Z likes, and it’s fast-paced, fun, and has that low-fi Gen Z has become known.”

Going forward, Barstool will continue to develop the brand beyond its media properties. “We look forward to further diversifying the content portfolio with more live events, custom merchandise, IP launches, and engaging fans and brands in the journey at every turn,” said Berger.


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