Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

If Browns Shut Out Steelers, Kia Buyers Get Car Free


The last week of the calendar year is traditionally the Super Bowl for car dealers. And Bill Doraty, who owns a single Kia dealership in Medina, 30 miles south of Cleveland, is doing his part to try to make it even bigger.

Cleveland Browns Stadium
Photo by: jab2980

If the Cleveland Browns shut out the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday, everyone who bought a Kia at his dealership this week gets their car for free.

“I’ve done a lot of marketing and I’m great at copying others,” Doraty told CNBC. “I’ve seen these promotions in the past and I know they get attention.”

They’re also pretty reasonable from an insurance standpoint. Doraty has to pay about 1.7 percent of the total sales for the week to the insurance company. Estimating that he hopes to sell about 75 to 100 cars, and with an average price of roughly $22,000, he says he’ll probably be paying about $30,000 in insurance for the promotion.

It’s admittedly a longshot.

The Steelers are 11-4 this season, the Browns are 4-11. The Browns have only WON four of the last 25 games against the Steelers and haven’t shut the Steelers out since a 51-0 drubbing in 1989.

The most famous NFL shutout promotion that actually came through was in October 1999. That year, electronic retailer BrandsMart in Kansas City came up with on a Chiefs shutout promotion. If the Chiefs shutout the Chargers that week, anyone who had purchased an item of more than $399 would get that item for free. In the four days leading up to the game, the promotion helped generate $425,000 in sales and the Saturday before the game was the most profitable in the company’s history.

“It was awesome,” Rob Wempe, who was BrandsMart’s vice president of sales at the time. “That Saturday, we had people standing in line for us to open the doors.”

Sure enough, the Chiefs did beat the Chargers 34-0 that day. The game’s announcer Dan Dierdorf mentioned BrandsMart’s promotion in the final minutes and players talking about it in the locker room.

“I hope everyone enjoys their free big screen TV on us,” Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas said at the time.

“We had people coming into the store, dancing and laughing,” said Wempe, who now runs a company called Promotions That Work. “Every TV station was doing a story on us.”

Thanks to insurance, BrandsMart came out a huge net winner. Wempe said that insurance cost the company roughly 6 percent of the total amount of what they sold that week.

Wempe cautioned that in order for promotions like this to work, the insurance isn’t the biggest cost. Advertising is.

Doraty knows that. He says he has spent plenty on radio and television ads.

“We’ve had people come through the door tell us that the promotion is why they are here,” Doraty said. “If there are ten Kia dealerships in Cleveland, assuming all else is equal, why wouldn’t you come buy your car from us? There’s a chance it could be free.”

One word of caution, the car wouldn’t be totally free. Doraty says the customer would have to pay for any manufacturer’s rebates that he or she received as well as tax for the car.

A company called Jordan’s Furniture in Massachusetts is the biggest proponent of using sports to sell its products. In 2007, fans who purchased furniture from March 7-April 16 received full rebates if the Red Sox won the World Series. Sure enough, they did and 30,000 qualified orders were free. The company is doing the same promotion if the Boston Bruins repeat as Stanley Cup Champions this year.

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