A&P BURNISHES IMAGE WITH KIDS' ART EXPO

ATLANTA -- A&P's Southeast group put the spotlight on its baby products by bumping up its participation in annual toddler fare here.The division, a unit of the Montvale, N.J.-based chain, has been a sponsor of the Baby & Kid Expo for three years and has organized a children's arts festival for the past two years. However, this year's arts festival -- and A&P's overall effort -- were much more elaborate

ATLANTA -- A&P's Southeast group put the spotlight on its baby products by bumping up its participation in annual toddler fare here.

The division, a unit of the Montvale, N.J.-based chain, has been a sponsor of the Baby & Kid Expo for three years and has organized a children's arts festival for the past two years. However, this year's arts festival -- and A&P's overall effort -- were much more elaborate than in the past, said Bruce Piefke, president of Atlanta-based Special Events Network, the company that organized the event.

"They've really blown it out and gotten really involved in their promotion vs. the early stuff they did," Piefke said.

One way the division revved up was to offer a $2 discount off the regular $5 admission price to anyone presenting a frequent shopper club card when arriving at the expo, held in the city's convention center.

"They're starting to build more value into that card, and they were very, very pleased with that. In fact, we had about 1,500 frequent shopper cards that came through," Piefke noted.

"What we do is create this huge pavilion area that is probably 60 feet wide by about 120 feet long," Piefke said when describing the layout of the A&P Children's Arts Festival booth.

"The perimeter of the area is all A&P vendors. Then we feature Master's Choice on one end and America's Choice on the other end. All this revolves around this activity area in the center, which is the children's arts festival," he explained.

What makes the arts festival unique, Piefke said, is that all the materials used in the art projects are items consumers can buy at A&P stores. Children were encouraged to string necklaces with dyed rigatoni and other pastas, to create prints with potato shapes and to design patterns with colored grits.

Piefke said the grits art was a new addition. "One of the big things that's real popular with kids is sand art. What we did was we took grits and added food coloring, so we basically did sand art -- only it was grits art," he said.

A&P also backed the Huggies diaper derby in an area adjacent to A&P's booth, Piefke said, noting that the chain profited from additional exposure and signs in that area.

Media exposure A&P received through its sponsorship included mention in radio ads, logo representation in all print advertising and television coverage the weekend of the expo.

In-store, the chain promoted the event with shelf talkers and posters supplied by Piefke. A&P also advertised the event in its weekly circular, he said. Piefke also put together a 24-page direct mail piece that was mailed to 8,500 expectant families. "A&P is featured all over that. In fact, they have the back cover. Coupons are involved as well," he added.

Piefke said some benefits of the sponsorship are hard to measure. "One of the reasons they get involved, and stay involved, is that it gives them very positive exposure in the market to a lot of people that may not normally shop at A&P," he said.

"The other reason they are involved is we have huge attendance. It's a successful event with a great track record. This year we had 33,000 people," Piefke added.

Officials at A&P declined comment.