Victorious Universe: Tricon awards 40 million-plus Phantom Menace prizes.

By Aug 01, 1999

Unlike sweepstakes, which require no purchase to enter (to legally distinguish them from lotteries), games can require a purchase. That, of course, means winning has to be made easier, and the latest trend with marketers is to offer scads of lower-value prizes.

To implement Tricon Global Restaurants’ Defeat the Dark Side Star Wars tie-in, two execs from Chicago-based promo agency Wunderman Cato Johnson, vp-group creative director Rob Albertson and director of promo operations planning Marnie Brown, decided that the key would be to offer a wide audience as many chances to win as possible. The campaign, which kicked off May 12, one week before the release of The Phantom Menace, was the result of two years work and $50 million. It had instant-win and collect-and-win components and ran in the Louisville, KY-based company’s 18,000 Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets.

“We had about 40 million food prizes, or one-in-eight odds of winning,” says Alberston. There were also three $1 million cash prizes, one for each restaurant chain. “Cash is always the best prize,” says Brown. There was also a prize of a “Landspeeder,” a custom-designed Hovercraft similar to the one used in the movie – a prize that can’t be found anywhere else in the galaxy. “I think exclusivity is an attraction, giving consumers a prize they can’t get anywhere else,” Albertson says.

The contest also gave away a handful of Lincoln Navigators, after one of the film’s actors described the Navigator as the Darth Vader of luxury automobiles in a magazine article, notes Albertson. Other prizes included a trip for two around the world, a $100,000 Visa shopping spree, 50 prizes of $10,000, and free Apple iMac computers. For the collect-and-win segment, consumers got a specially designed game board themed to scenes in the film. Following purchase of designated food and drink items, consumers received a gamepiece that held a keepsake medallion with images of some of the film’s chief characters. The plan was to ensure that retail customers visited all three chains to collect the full set.

Premiums being sold at the restaurants were packaged in boxes that interlocked to form a mural – with each of the chain’s boxes able to connect to form a larger picture. The boxes also contained detachable trading cards as an extra giveaway.

Brown thinks the collectable gamepiece has special consumer appeal because, “Each time consumers go into a store, they are one step closer to winning. When you get a gamepiece, it’s for a prize, even if it’s a little one. But it doesn’t say, `Sorry you’re a loser.’ That takes away the sting of losing,” she says.

The two WCJ wizards used the same concept in a promo last year for Chevron. The Tic Tac Techron instant-win game – promoting the company’s premium gas additive – allowed consumers to collect various cartoon cars used in Chevon advertisements. The grand prize was $100,000. Other prizes included a Mercury Mountaineer, free Phillips 66 gas for a year, trips to the college football Fiesta Bowl, Packard Bell computers, Blockbuster gift certificates, and coupons for Pepsi, Avis Rent-a-Car, and AT&T WorldNet Service – a prize pool valued at more than $5 million. What Chevron wanted was a contest that got consumers into its mini-marts to trigger impulse buys. Station managers handing out gamepieces “made it very successful,” Albertson says.

The chief drawback of games is their cost. Promoters must monitor the seeding of winning gamepieces to ensure they are really “randomly placed,” which can make them pretty expensive, says Mark Shevitz, ceo of SJI Inc., a St. Louis-based promotion agency. This accounts for the predominant use of scratch-and-win technology in state-run lottery games. The way the product is distributed can also make a big difference to cost, he says.

“An understanding of what the customer is really looking for is key,” says Springstreet.com exec Pamela Maulhardt. “You have to bring in enough of a promo mix to make the thing work.”

Clearly, most of them do.