Case Study: Fast Food Advertising With Top Instagrammers

fast food advertising case study
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Fast Food Advertising Case Study: How McDonald’s, Burger King, & Subway Collaborate With Instagram Influencers

The American fast food industry rakes in more than $198.9B a year, and by 2020 its yearly revenue is expected to grow to $223.9B. McDonald’s, Burger King, and Subway in particular are among the world’s 10 most valuable fast food brands. A 2017 study estimated their combined valuation to be more than $1B.

All three brands are incorporating influencer marketing into their larger fast food advertising strategy. Specifically, each has leveraged social media stars to reach Millennials and highlight specific menu offerings. In the following case study we’ll examine how each brand partners with influencers on Instagram to advertise its food.

McDonald’s Markets With Celebrities And Micro-Influencers

Approach: To promote its McCafe, buttermilk crispy tenders, and fries McDonald’s partnered with 14 Instagram influencers to create 26 sponsored posts. Half of the influencers involved were lifestyle micro-influencers with less than 100,000 followers. The other half were made up of television personalities, actors, and internet stars with upwards of 100,000 followers each.

In each sponsored post, the Instagrammers clearly displayed the McDonald’s logo and tagged the official McDonald’s Instagram account within the caption. The branded hashtags #mccafe and #buttermilkcrispytenders were also utilized.

Key Influencers:

  1. Cierra Ramirez – 1.7M Followers
  2. Jeff Wittek – 359K Followers
  3. Becca Tilley – 1.1M Followers
  4. Steven Kim – 160K Followers

Results: To date, the Instagram influencer campaign has generated 307K likes, 2K comments, and an average engagement rate of 5.9%.


Actress, model, and singer Cierra Ramirez is perhaps most well known for her appearance in the television show The Fosters. The 22-year-old’s McDonald’s sponsored post received over 118,000 likes and 363 comments for an engagement rate of 13.7%.

The Boomerang created by Ramirez fits in well with the effortless style exuded by the rest of her feed. Additionally, the Golden Arches of McDonald’s are prominently featured on both the car and the storefront behind her, raising brand awareness for McDonald’s.

YouTube personality and actor, Jeff Wittek boasts 359,000 followers and posted one sponsored Instagram video. The short skit incorporates humor and sticks to his theme of framing ordinary moments creatively.

The video achieved an engagement rate of nearly 17%, one of the highest of the campaign, and garnered more than 29,000 likes.  

Burger King Partners With Instagram Trick Shot Artists To Promote Its Tater Tots

Approach: To advertise the return of its cheesy tater tots Burger King collaborated with 17 influencers to create 18 sponsored Instagram videos. All of the influencers involved performed an athletic trick using the tater tots. All but 5 of the influencers had more than 100,000 followers and all were Millennials.

Each influencer tailored their sponsored video to their particular trick shot skill set. In each of their captions they tagged Burger King’s official Instagram account. Additionally, the branded hashtags #cheesytotsareback and #tricktots were present in every caption.

Key Influencers:

  1. Carly Beyar, Shannon Fay, & Alanna Locast – 175K Followers
  2. Tania Tare – 89K Followers
  3. Josh Horton – 257K Followers
  4. Samuel Grubbs – 120K Followers

Results: The Instagram influencer campaign has generated 106K likes, 1K comments, and an average engagement rate of 3%.


Carly Beyar, Shannon Fay, and Alanna Locast are three former division-1 soccer players that create comedy skits poking fun at the daily struggles faced by female athletes. The trio posted one sponsored video in partnership with Burger King.

Similar to Jeff Wittek’s post for McDonald’s, the soccer players incorporated the humor they’ve become known for and performed a skit where cheesy tots gave them motivation to get through practice. However, the post saw an engagement rate of 7%, much lower than the nearly 17% engagement rate Wittek garnered in the McDonald’s campaign.

27-year-old Tania Tare is a professional golfer from New Zealand who has become an internet sensation for her golf trick shots. Tare created one sponsored Instagram video for the Burger King campaign that has generated 2,900 likes and engagement rate of 6.7%.

The camera angle and slow motion capture of Tare’s cheesy tot trickshot matches the format of her other trick shot videos. While McDonald’s sponsored content emphasizes logos and product, Tare’s focused more on her unique skillset.

Subway Boosts Brand Awareness At Music Festivals With The Help Of Instagram Influencers

Approach: To showcase its presence at and sponsorship of several U.S. music festivals during summer 2017 Subway partnered with 8 influencers to create 22 sponsored Instagram posts. The vast majority of the influencers involved had less than 100K followers and each was a millennial.

Key Influencers:

  1. Jennifer Levinson – 73K Followers
  2. Ben Carlin – 44K Followers
  3. Jonathan Carlin – 50K Followers
  4. Brock Williams & Chris Lin –  119K Followers

Results: The Instagram influencer campaign has generated 49K likes, 649 comments, and an average engagement rate of 7.6%.


subway fast food influencer social media case study

Jennifer Levinson is an American actress and digital producer with 73,000 Instagram followers. In partnership with Subway she created 6 sponsored posts. The highest performing of the 6 achieved 12,5000 likes and an engagement rate of 34%.

Levinson’s Instagram feed showcases her world travels and colorful style. Her Subway boomerang utilized a similarly bright color scheme and let audiences in on her latest adventure. She also includes her boyfriend Steven, who appears in many of her most engaging posts.

subway influencer instagram social media star case study

Ben Carlin is a Virginia based internet personality who runs the YouTube channel SuperCarlinBrothers with his brother Jonathan. The creator saw an engagement rate of 21%, with over 4,700 likes from his 44,800 followers on his sponsored Subway photo.

In the caption, he explains that he is headed to Firefly music festival. By aligning its marketing efforts with a popular music festival, Subway effectively targets the millennial audiences that are known for making up a large portion of festival attendees.