PRICE CHOPPER SCORES ESPN WEDDING PROMOTION

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. - Price Chopper's bakery and floral departments scored national publicity after the retailer was selected to be the wedding flower and cake provider for ESPN's Mike & Mike Marriage Madness contest winners.The winning sports fans' wedding was broadcast nationally on May 26 during the Mike & Mike Morning Show radio program, which is also simulcast on the ESPN2 television station. The

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. - Price Chopper's bakery and floral departments scored national publicity after the retailer was selected to be the wedding flower and cake provider for ESPN's Mike & Mike Marriage Madness contest winners.

The winning sports fans' wedding was broadcast nationally on May 26 during the Mike & Mike Morning Show radio program, which is also simulcast on the ESPN2 television station. The event was heavily promoted on ESPN Radio; ESPN2; ESPN360, which provides sports information directly to fans' computers; and Mobile ESPN, which provides sports scores to fans' cell phones on a 24/7 basis.

"Our floral vice president heard that ESPN was hosting a wedding, so I called some local media people I know and got the opportunity to meet with the [Mike & Mike] producer and program directors," said JoAnn LaPorta, spokeswoman for Price Chopper, which has supplied wedding flowers and cakes for several years. "After showing them the quality of our bakery and floral products, they were thrilled to have us be a part of the wedding."

The 100-store chain promoted its role in the wedding during the weeks leading up to the event.

"During a meeting with the ESPN executives, they mentioned that Mike Golic, the host of the Mike & Mike show who loves to eat, would like to have his own cake at the wedding," LaPorta said. "We thought this was a great opportunity to gain extra visibility, so each week leading up to the wedding we gave him a cake that he could taste on air. All of his fans know that he loves food and his reaction to the cakes got the word out that ours are excellent." Golic co-hosts the radio show with Mike Greenberg.

The cake tasting went on for about seven weeks, according to LaPorta, who added that Golic chose snicker doodle filling for the cake created in his likeness. It featured a character that resembles Golic wearing a tuxedo.

Price Chopper also capitalized on the winning couple's flower and cake selection process as an in-store advertising opportunity at the retailer's Bristol, Conn., store.

Catherine Bennett and Jason West, a University of Florida Gator-loving couple from Jupiter, Fla., were welcomed to the store with a banner that said "Congratulations Catherine and Jason! Go Gators! From your friends at ESPN radio and Price Chopper."

Cameras recorded their Price Chopper experience and the video was posted on the show's interactive website where fans voted for things like the type of music that would be played at the wedding. It took place at ESPN's campus, also in Bristol.

Floral associates dressed in University of Florida jerseys displayed orange and blue sports-themed floral arrangements throughout the store's department.

Price Chopper's bakery section featured photo cakes bearing the likeness of the couple.

"Shoppers stopped their carts and everyone was smiling," LaPorta said. "Everyone wanted to know what all the buzz was about."

The experience was also an enjoyable one for the couple.

"We sat down with the people from Price Chopper and they were amazing," Bennett said before the wedding took place. "They had all these great ideas about the cake and the flowers. We decided to go with mostly orange flowers and sports-themed decorations."

West was especially pleased with the five-tier chocolate Bavarian-filled cake that he and Bennett selected.

"The cake is going to be a masterpiece, we're in great hands," he said.

Price Chopper also created a third Florida Gator-shaped cake featuring an alligator wearing an orange "sweater" for the couple's reception.

"This event gave Price Chopper's Central Market Florist, certified floral designers and bakery department national recognition, which certainly reminds customers that we are a viable wedding source," LaPorta said. "It's because of our fantastic team's efforts that we were able to do this event. The fantastic team of professionals at the store and corporate level used their tremendous skills to pull this off."

Although she is confident the exposure will help the retailer's wedding business, LaPorta noted it will be difficult to gauge the real impact on sales.

"I definitely think this will influence business," she said. "It'll cause people to at least look into our offerings."

Price Chopper plans to add the pictures of the flowers and bakery items from the wedding to the books it uses to help potential wedding clients drum up ideas and showcase the retailer's abilities.

"It was amazing to work with a national network that has such high standards," LaPorta said. "The ESPN executives were extremely impressed with the products we delivered. They said that we exceeded their expectations."