Chains seek slam dunks with NCAA tourney tie-ins

Chains seek slam dunks with NCAA tourney tie-ins

With college basketball descending into March Madness, several restaurant chains are getting in the game with a variety of sponsorships and promos that tie into the NCAA tournament.

Arby's is advertising on Facebook as the sponsor of CBS Sports' bracket contest on the social-networking site. Arby's has been promoting its new line of Roastburgers [3], and its Facebook ads include a coupon to try one for free. The 3,756-unit chain also launched a website, www.arbys.com/versus [4], that includes the coupon offer along with basketball news, downloadable "Game Schwag" and other online features, including one that lets fans send messages to friends bashing their teams.

In the unlikely event that a No. 16-seeded team knocks off a No. 1 team in the first round of the men's tournament, Arby's also has vowed to give away an All-American Roastburger to every customer who visits a store on March 23.

"Each year at this time, people crave that Cinderella story -- the team that takes everyone by surprise," said Jason Abelkop, senior vice president of marketing and national media for Atlanta-based Arby's Restaurant Group Inc. "Our new Roastburgers offer an unexpected change from standard greasy burgers."

Like Arby's, Papa John's Pizza is using its Facebook presence to drive sales during the tournament. As the Official Pizza of NCAA March Madness, Papa John's is asking Facebook users to become one of its "fans" for a chance to win two tickets to the Final Four basketball games April 4-6.

"Our customers are technologically savvy and they love sports," said John Schnatter, chairman and chief executive of Papa John's International Inc. "NCAA March Madness is consistently one of our busiest times of year, making it the perfect opportunity for us to thank our customers for 25 years of patronage with a chance to attend the Men's Final Four."

The more than 3,300-unit pizza chain, which is based in Louisville, Ky., also is promoting an offer for a large Ultimate Pepperoni Pizza for $11.99. The deal is good through April 5.

KFC is sponsoring Yahoo! Sports' Tourney Pick'em bracket contest. The 5,300-unit chicken chain's logo appears on printable brackets along with an offer for 30 Hot Wings for $15.99. Louisville-based KFC also is using its online ads on Yahoo to promote its new 10-item value menu [5].

Contact Molly Gise at [email protected] [6].