MALVERN, Pa. -- March Madness spilled over from the basketball court to the supermarket as Acme Markets here ran a promotion through which consumers could qualify to receive free Final Four tickets and merchandise.
Tying in to the annual National Collegiate Athletic Association's basketball championship, which concludes tonight, the promotion rewarded consumers buying more of the featured products. Five purchases of the participating products entitled shoppers to a free Final Four squeeze bottle; 10 purchases, a T-shirt; 15 purchases, a hat, and 20 purchases, a souvenir basketball.
No purchase was necessary to enter a sweepstakes in which the prize was a trip for two to the Final Four in East Rutherford, N.J. Entry blanks were available in Acme stores.
Officials at Acme declined to comment on the promotion, but local observers said Acme scored big points with the month-long promotion.
"They did a good job of coordinating everything on this one," said one observer. "They ran some good ads and did some nice things in the stores to tie everything together.
"Acme usually does a good job with its ads, but this one was real good," he added. "It spelled everything out, so you knew how much you had to buy. It was a good attention getter. Everyone likes getting free merchandise, but it seems to work really well when it's sports-related. It's especially effective with young kids and teenagers."
Another observer was particularly impressed with the in-store component of the promotion.
"The items included in this deal had shelf talkers," he said. "You'd go down the aisle and see signs with basketballs all down the aisle. In some stores, they put a couple of the items in the seasonal aisle."
In an Acme visited by SN, in-store signs and a supplement to the in-store flier publicized the promotion. The ad supplement included an entry blank for the trip and a merchandise order form.
The only thing missing, one of the observers noted, was a local team making it to the Final Four.
"That would have been a real bonus, but this tournament has become such a big deal and generates enough interest that having a local team do well isn't as important as it might be in something else."