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QuickChek Shifts Marketing Focus to Foodservice, Digital Program

Retailer ends 27-year run as title sponsor of New Jersey Festival of Ballooning
Photograph courtesy of QuickChek

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. — As the convenience-store and fast-casual foodservice industries continue to evolve, c-store retailer QuickChek is changing its marketing strategies as it increases its investments in its foodservice menu and new digital marketing program in 2020.

As part of this shift, QuickChek has ended its title sponsorship of the annual New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, which it had held since 1992. QuickChek CEO Dean Durling said the chain will look to remain part of the festival but is creating an opportunity for the event to continue its growth and search for a new title sponsor.

The New Jersey Festival of Ballooning is the largest summertime hot-air balloon and music festival in North America. Held annually at Solberg Airport in Readington, N.J., it features twice-daily mass ascensions of up to 100 specially shaped hot air balloons, as well as concerts, fireworks, vendors, food and other entertainment. The 37-year-old event drew 169,500 people to its 2019 event, organizers said.

“The balloon festival is our No. 1 branding event,” Durling said in 2016. Over the years, QuickChek has maximized its sponsorship of this three-day event into a nine-month-long partnership. QuickChek c-stores have served as the festival’s exclusive retail ticket outlet, creating savings opportunities for consumers on food, beverages and tickets in the months leading up to the festival. The company opened a 2,700-square-foot, air-conditioned replica c-store on-site, where festival attendees could order from the chain’s menu. It also provided a hospitality tent.

“The festival has been a showcase event for us for 27 years,” Durling said. “It has allowed us to deliver our message of providing restaurant-quality fresh food at a great value, of having the best cup of coffee in the market and demonstrate the pride and commitment we have in caring for our customers and our communities.

“Internally, it’s amazing what we have learned from operating a store inside a festival of this magnitude, whether it’s on product, process, leadership or solving problems," he continued. "For our brand, we’ve received tremendous media impressions that generate coverage and brand presence in the top market in the country. We’re proud of the role we’ve played but as we focus on our new stores, the time is right for someone else to enjoy the success we’ve had as its title sponsor.”

“The festival has enjoyed remarkable growth through our mutually rewarding partnership with QuickChek,” said Howard Freeman of the Festival Group, Fairfield, N.J., co-owner of the festival along with John Korff. “We created a showcase event for New Jersey, provide families with memories that last a lifetime with an experience you can’t find anywhere else, and proudly support our local communities.”

The event has an economic impact of $52.4 million and has raised more than $3 million for local charities and nonprofits. It has generated 918 million media impressions with front-page coverage and a large TV audience with a measured media value of $30 million for the consumer brands and services that supported the annual event in 2019.

“Through our relationships working with QuickChek and customizing programs with leading consumer brands, we’ve turned a three-day event into a year-round ‘good news’ promotion, bringing in the best balloons in the world, major concert performers, and product samples everyone looks forward to year after year,” Freeman said.

The 2020 festival is scheduled for July 24-26.

Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based QuickChek Corp. is a privately held company that operates approximately 160 convenience stores, including 78 locations with fuel, in New Jersey and New York. QuickChek is No. 41 in CSP’s2019 Top 202 ranking of c-store chains by number of retail outlets.

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