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McDonald’s reveals the damage of Raptors’ historic run: more than 2.5 million free french fries

At an average menu price of $2.89, the 2.5 million giveaways during the Raptors’ regular season have a total value $7.2 million.
At an average menu price of $2.89, the 2.5 million giveaways during the Raptors’ regular season have a total value $7.2 million. - 123RF Stock Photo

Response to the Ontario promotion nearly quadrupled McDonald's forecast, totalling more than half a million in the playoffs alone

McDonald’s restaurants in Ontario gave away more than half a million orders of free french fries during the Toronto Raptors 2019 NBA playoffs run, the company said Monday, after tallying the final numbers for its runaway promotion.

Response to the offer — free medium french fries in Ontario whenever the Raptors scored 12 or more three-pointers in a game — nearly quadrupled McDonald’s forecast, totalling more than 2.5 million fries in the regular season and playoffs combined, the hamburger chain said.

After the Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors in game six to win the NBA Finals last week, hitting 13 three-pointers in the process, McDonald’s gave out 110,000 free orders of medium fries — double the regular-season average and more than six times what McDonald’s expected to give out each game.

McDonald’s executives agreed on the major sponsorship deal with the Raptors just days before a blockbuster trade brought superstar Kawhi Leonard to Toronto in July 2018. McDonald’s forecasts, based in part on a similar promotion with the Montreal Canadiens, predicted the Raptors would make 12 or more three-pointers in half their 82 games in the regular season, leading to roughly 700,000 free fries, or around 17,000 per game.

Instead, as Leonard and the Raptors surged in popularity, McDonald’s gave out 2 million fries in the regular season alone — even though the team only slightly exceeded McDonald’s expectations, hitting 12 or more threes in 44 of 82 games.

In 24 playoff games, the Raptors made 12 or more threes in 11 games, though McDonald’s only held “free fry days” for 10 games since one giveaway day would have interfered with a charity fundraiser. For those 10 playoff games, the Raptors gave away 550,000 fries — 190,000 in the final two games.

Earlier this month, a McDonald’s executive told the Financial Post that head office was concerned the runaway promotion might overwhelm franchisees.

Mike Forman, who owns four franchises in Whitby, Ont., said he staffed an extra fry cook for the lunch rush on free fry days. His stores averaged 500 free orders on those days, once hitting 960 for a single game.

“I don’t think anybody’s too focused on costs right now, we’re just excited by how the Raptors are doing,” he said earlier this month. “We see that as something that will really help in the future.”

At an average menu price of $2.89, the 2.5 million giveaways have a total value $7.2 million. While the actual cost to franchisees is far lower, McDonald’s wouldn’t say what it is.

The victory for McDonald’s is pushing people onto its mobile app — a source of valuable consumer data and insights. To redeem fries after Raptors games, customers had to use the app. And since the promotion started, users on the app have increased by 26 per cent, McDonald’s said. Ten per cent of all sales on the app were related to the Raptors promotion.

McDonald’s chose to partner with the Raptors, and not the Toronto Maple Leafs, because they thought Raptors fans were more inclined to use the app.

“The Raptors demographic and fan base is much more digital native than say a team like the Toronto Maple Leafs,” Chuck Coolen, head of marketing for Eastern Canada, told the Financial Post earlier this month.

Coolen, the architect of the promotion, was at the Raptors parade in Toronto on Monday and unavailable for an interview, a spokesman said.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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