Influencer Relations

Engaging Internal Influencers

Sonic Drive-In SONIC Games

212 percent
participation growth
employee engagement
More than 30 million
earned media impressions


In the quick service restaurant business, brands must differentiate themselves through customer service. Fast food restaurants often focus only on speed, sacrificing customer service aspects. That begs the question: Why should companies spend time and money on a customer service program? SONIC believes that to become an employer of choice, you have to invest and focus on your employees. If employees are proud of their work and are provided opportunities to succeed, they will serve as excellent brand ambassadors for the business.


To improve customer service, increase employee morale and reduce employee turnover, we developed the Dr Pepper SONIC Games, an Olympic-style competition in which SONIC Drive-Ins across the nation competed to determine the best crewmembers and top Drive-in. Participating Drive-ins competed for nine months in a series of team and individual competitions that tested SONIC crewmembers’ expertise in things like grilling hamburgers and mixing drinks. To connect headquarter employees to Drive-in employees, corporate spirit teams were formed. The spirit teams sent posters, video messages and gift baskets to wish the crews good luck. The Drive-ins were narrowed to the Final 12 who earned all-expense paid trips to compete in a final competition and attend SONIC’s National Convention. Gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded to individual and team winners in front of SONIC executives and thousands of franchisees, managers and employees. Media relations and social media support helped create recognition of the Dr Pepper SONIC Games in local SONIC communities, emphasizing SONIC’s commitment to customer service and its employees while instilling a sense of pride among crewmembers.


After 19 years the Dr Pepper SONIC Games grew from less than 800 Drive-ins participating in the first year to more than 2,500 participating Drive-ins. Additionally, Games Positioned SONIC as the employer of choice within the quick service industry and boosted employee morale and helped to empower and encourage employees to become future leaders of the company. From an earned media perspective, Games garnered more than 1,000 news stories and 30 million impressions, and key message pick-up highlighted SONIC as best-in-class for customer service and employee engagement.