Commentary: Kentucky chains rush to get out Final Four promotions

Pizza chains have been going all out with promotions since March Madness began, and for good reason – NCAA men's basketball engages their heavy user audience.

Some places have been able to stretch those promotions out a bit, or at least add a bit more creative flair, as the tournament has progressed. And a few are still scrambling to come up with deals as the tournament has whittled down to four teams.  

A couple of Kentucky-based chains are trying to maximize the benefits of expediting a special promotion since two home state teams – the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky – have made it to the Final Four.

If you've ever been to Kentucky, you know how huge this scenario is. (Disclaimer: PizzaMarketplace.com is based out of Louisville, we witness the rivalry up close).

Coming up with a quick, appropriate marketing scheme ahead of the tournament's finale, however, can be a tricky proposition. You see, the Cardinals of Louisville and the Wildcats of Kentucky don't really like each other.

How serious is the rivalry? Local media is calling it everything from the Civil War to Clash of the Commonwealth.

This week, a fight even broke out at a dialysis center between fans of both teams. A dialysis center!

Louisville-based Papa John's, therefore, was presented with a situation that required striking a delicate balance.

The pizza giant did just that by offering its loyalty members 28 percent off their regular menu price online order when they use a special promo code referencing either the Cards or the Cats. The offer expires Saturday, when the big game is played.

Additionally, Papa John's is offering a chance for those enrolled to win a free large one-topping pizza if their team wins.

That is certainly an unbiased approach. Well done, Papa.

Another, smaller Kentucky-based chain also has scrambled to put together a campaign in time for tip-off. Louisville's BoomBozz Pizza & Taphouse has created a limited edition "Bluegrass Battle" T-shirt and a large, one-topping pizza for $15.

Guests can pick red, blue or black (for the neutral fans? Fair weather fans?) depending on their allegiance. The offer runs Saturday, also coinciding with the game, and is good for dine-in, carry-out or delivery.

"If, for some (very weird) reason, you don't want the pie, you can still score the shirt, available in red, blue or black, for a mere $10 to remember this historic weekend in Bluegrass basketball," said Tony Palombino, founder of BoomBozz Pizza & Taphouse. "The chances of this happening again are pretty slim – so get your shirt and a great pizza, and enjoy the game!"

In fact, although Kentucky and Louisville play each other every season (it's become a New Year's Eve tradition), they have never met in the Final Four.

Kentucky is a basketball heavyweight state, and with these fast, easy promotions, Papa John's and BoomBozz are feeding the high-stakes emotions of a large majority of its population. Fans on both sides of the ball will long remember that.

The lesson here? Even if you don't have a lot of time to come up with something big, come up with something anyway. Celebrate occasions that your fans celebrate; it creates a deeper connection between them and your business and that's a deciding factor when they are wondering where to spend their money.

Read more about marketing and promotions.

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