Cause Branding

Standing Out In A Cluttered Cause Space

Applebee’s Veterans Day Activation

163 million
earned media impressions
TODAY, CNBC, Bloomberg
One million meals
served to veterans


Applebee’s is the world’s largest casual dining chain. Through ongoing charitable efforts of the brand and its franchisees, Applebee’s is committed to the neighborhoods it serves. The Applebee’s brand has a longstanding annual tradition of supporting veterans, acting as the first national casual dining restaurant to offer free “Thank You Meals” to veterans on Veterans Day. In recent years, other restaurants have begun offering veterans free meals on Veterans Day, making it a crowded space. Crossroads and Applebee’s were challenged to continue to capture media attention and garner coverage for the brand’s support of service members.


Applebee’s teamed up with The Mission Continues, a nonprofit organization formed to empower veterans facing the challenge of adjusting to life at home. Crossroads collaborated with Applebee’s and The Mission Continues, leading campaign message development to ensure a rich story about the brand support of veterans.

To execute successful media outreach, planning started in September with the development of media targets, media materials and strategic news angles for each Veterans Day storyline. These outlets varied from national consumer outlets, military-specific publications, local outlets in key markets, as well as targeted trade publications.

Taking our media research into consideration, Crossroads developed several media angles to appeal to the widely varying outlets. This included DineEquity CEO Julia Stewart in world’s largest Applebee’s in Time Square, serving and 
greeting veterans and cooking demos with local Applebee’s representatives highlighting Thank You meals.


Crossroads met or exceeded all objectives and garnered more than 163 million impressions for Applebee’s Veterans Day program. Additionally, Applebee’s secured the highest share of voice around Veterans Day in the restaurant’s competitive set with 47 percent. National coverage included TODAY, CNBC, Bloomberg and Good Morning America online. Ultimately, Applebee’s served more than 1 million meals on Veterans Day.