Within the corporate offices at Little Caesars, the prospect of giving away a free lunch to millions of Americans may not prove as daunting as it first appears.
That’s because the cost of providing free pizza and a drink across the country as part of a promotion tied to the NCAA college basketball tournament also brings with it huge gains in publicity — or so Little Caesars expects.
For the past few years, Detroit-based Little Caesars has offered a free lunch combo — four deep-dish pepperoni pizza slices and a 20-ounce drink — if a 16-seed team beat a No. 1-seed team in the annual NCAA college basketball tournament.
It seemed like the longest of long shots. It had never happened before.
But last Friday it did, when lowly University of Maryland, Baltimore County, eliminated mighty No. 1 seed Virginia in a stunning 74-54 upset.
So Little Caesars outlets across the nation will be gearing up for a swarm of customers April 2 when the lunch giveaway takes place.
“We were pretty surprised,” Jill Proctor, a spokeswoman for Little Caesars, said Monday. But she added, “We wouldn’t do the promotion if we didn’t think there was some chance it would happen someday, so I guess why not this year?”
Little Caesars isn’t saying what the promotion will cost or whether the company took out insurance to cover any potential loss. But Proctor said the company is looking at the bright side — the huge amount of publicity the giveaway could generate.
“We’re thrilled that it happened actually because we’re really excited for all the hype and enthusiasm that this has generated for our brand,” she said. “A lot of people, even though they know about Little Caesars, they don’t know about our lunch combo as much as we’d like them to. So we’re hoping to generate a little more exposure for this lunch deal.”
The rules are strict: The giveaway happens only between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Monday, April 2, the day of the NCAA college basketball championship game. The limit is one per family. Most but perhaps not all Little Caesars outlets will participate, so it’s a good idea to call ahead to check with a specific outlet.
And you need to be in line and have placed your order by 1 p.m. to get the free combo. Oh, and it’s “while supplies last.” That’s another reason to get there early and get in line.
Promotional giveaways are common tying a sporting event to a consumer product, with various outlets offering free fries or drinks if a local team hits home runs or throws a number of strikeouts. But major nationwide promotions like the Little Caesars giveaway are more rare.
In 2014, Detroit-based Quicken Loans teamed up with billionaire Warren Buffett to offer a $1 billion to anyone who achieved a perfect bracket in the NCAA tournament — picking the winner of every single game. Even with millions of entries, nobody came close to winning.
So the Little Caesars giveaway may represent a first.
“This is the biggest one I’ve ever heard of,” Proctor said. “I could be mistaken or be missing something, but giving free lunch away to everyone in America is kind of a big deal.”