Taco Bell's WS Giveaway: What Are The Odds You'll "Win?"

For years, Taco Bell has put up some crazy promotions related to the World Series. My take is they’ve tried to give away a free taco, but they focused too hard on the publicity of it all and not on the actual possibility that one of their promotions could ever pay off for fans.

Over the last five years, here’s what didn’t pay off. A Taco Bell target in McCovey Cove in San Francisco was never hit (2002). A 16-person human billboard was never hit (2003). A 12-by-12 foot target during Game 3 was never hit (2004). And a home run left of centerfield in Game 3 didn’t occur (2006).

But this year, it’s going to happen. The folks at Taco Bell are offering a free taco to America if a player steals a base during the entire World Series They tell me that this has definitely happened every year since 1990. My job is now to tell you how many people I think will really redeem a taco when this happens.


So let’s start with the rules in the fine print. If a base is stolen in Games 1 or 2, fans can collect their Free Crunchy Seasoned Beef Taco on Tuesday, Oct. 30. If a base is stolen in games 3-7, the redemption date is Nov. 6.

Let’s look at it on those odds alone. I’m going to assume that about 15 percent of the country will be aware of the promotion. That means that about 45 million people know about the promotion. I’d say that 30 percent of those people will know that a stolen base actually occurred and that they can redeem their free taco at some point. That means that 13.5 million people will be aware that a free taco is available.

Then I think that, out of those people, five percent will remember that the free taco needed to be redeemed a week later. That’s 675,000 people. And now let me tell you your final rule

The taco has to be redeemed between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. local time on Oct. 30 or Nov. 6 – that’s a Tuesday. Since most people are at work during those hours, I’d say 5 percent of those people actually go and redeem a taco during a non-lunch hour.

For its part, Taco Bell spokesman Rob Poetsch says that the 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. time frame is done so that each franchisee can be well mobilized to give away that free taco, but it obviously reduces the number of people that can come and collect.

How many people do I predict will redeem a free taco? 33,750 people. Or .01 percent of America. That’s got to be one of the reasons why Taco Bell isn’t taking out insurance. If my numbers are right, that’s only $26,000 in retail costs being exposed (it’s 77 cents a taco) and probably closer to $4,000 on gross costs.

That’s why if I’m a stockholder of Yum Brands , parent company of Taco Bell, I love this promotion. It’s creative, it gets attention, but the marketing cost is meager.

Compare that to the Krispy Kreme promotion that somehow lasted for four years (2003-2006). When the Kansas City Royals had 12 hits or more in any home game, fans got 12 free doughnuts with their ticket stub. The club did that between 15 and 20 times a season and ticket stubs could be redeemed for doughnuts between Monday and Friday within 30 days of the game date.

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