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KFC's 'Flash' of brilliance

Source: Mike Ehrmann, Getty Images

More brilliant public relations from the KFC marketing department, this time capitalizing on the National Basketball Association lockout. The chicken chain gets credit for keeping its eye on the ball, because when multimillionaire Dwyane Wade tweeted from a fashion show in Milan "Any1 hiring?" KFC chose not to point out how ridiculous a statement that is to make when the U.S. unemployment rate is 9.2 percent, but rather seized on an opportunity for publicity.

Some background: In high school, Wade, a star guard for the Miami Heat, worked for a short time at a KFC location. Since he made $15.5 million during the 2011 season, Wade conceivably could ride out the NBA's work stoppage with a little belt tightening. But John Cywinski, general manager for KFC U.S., decided to offer Wade a job anyway, proposing a generous donation to the Colonel's Scholars charity in Wade's name in exchange for the star working the drive-thru window for one day.

"We couldn't help but notice your recent tweet about looking for a new line of work in light of the lockout," Cywinski wrote in an open letter to Wade. "We're always looking for folks with precisely your qualifications: initiative, teamwork and the ability to make buckets in a hurry."

Now, Flash (Wade's nickname) is not likely to take KFC up on its offer (probably because he saw Mark Cuban work the counter at a Dairy Queen in 2002 — it didn't work out too well for D-Wade the last time he tried to best Cuban). But the chain is getting its name on the news and across the blogosphere today, which creates thousands of opportunities to make more impressions for its fried and grilled chicken, or its scholarship program. All this started with a quick, fleeting and incredibly out-of-touch tweet, and KFC acted quickly.

RELATED: KFC relaunches grilled chicken line

We'll get a sense of how well KFC's public-relations prowess translates into sales on Wednesday, when parent company Yum! Brands Inc. reports its second-quarter earnings. In the first quarter, KFC's same-store sales rose 1 percent, compared with flat sales at sister brand Taco Bell and a 3-percent decrease at Pizza Hut.

So I guess D-Wade and KFC are a good fit after all, as Wade was the Heat's best player in its recent NBA Finals loss to Cuban's Dallas Mavericks, off-setting lackluster performances from his two marquee teammates (let's call Chris Bosh Taco Bell in this case and say LeBron James' disappearing act was like Pizza Hut's drop in sales).

Cywinski ended his open letter with, "We'll keep your headset waiting," but KFC may want to close this deal soon before the third quarter ends. Heat players don't really come with it in the fourth quarter. Burned!

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NR

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