When Shutouts Attack: The Evolution of a Promotion Gone Awry

nfl_e_seahawks11_200x300It was Thursday afternoon. I had just acquired a carne asada burrito from Casa D’s — one of the greatest hole-in-the-wall food establishments in the entire world, for the record — and was enjoying lunch in my car while listening to sports radio. I don’t usually eat meals in my car, but on this particular day I needed a break from the office. So I sat there and listened to my pals Jason Puckett and Ian Furness discuss something I half-paid attention to while downing a gigantic flour tortilla filled with wholesome goodness.

The banter ceased. A commercial break hit. I neglected to change the station. I picked up my phone and scrolled through a seemingly endless Twitter feed. A fast-talking pitchman took the airwaves in a taped advertisement for a car dealership. “Win $35,000!” he said. I continued to scroll. “If the Seahawks shut out the Giants…12 winners…no purchase necessary…” And still I scrolled. The ad came to its end.

I heard the words. I even remembered them as I finished my lunch and headed back to work. I didn’t catch the name of the dealership, though. And I didn’t have time to check out some car website to enter a shady contest that presented improbable odds of winning. So just as quickly as the ad had entered my consciousness, it fled.

Sunday came. The Seahawks met the Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The first two quarters of play meandered along at a sluggish pace. By halftime, the scoreboard read 13-0, Seattle. It was a meager output for both teams. And yet one half of that mark stood out significantly. New York’s goose egg triggered memories of Thursday afternoon. That ad. That car dealership. What if…what if it actually happened? What if the Seahawks actually shut out the Giants?

My brain immediately went into self-loathing mode. Why didn’t you enter the contest, dumbass? You could have won $35,000! Why weren’t you paying more attention to that godforsaken commercial that destiny, apparent destiny, had united you with?! WHYYYYYYY???!!! What the hell is wrong with you?!

But then reason kicked in. There’s still a half to play, idiot. The odds say it won’t happen. New York will score at least once. And heck, even if they don’t, what are the chances you’d win anything at all? Tens of thousands of people heard that advertisement. Many more probably knew about it through other means. I bet there are hundreds upon thousands of entrants. You wouldn’t win shit. Hah. Forget it.

Midway through the third quarter and the Giants offense continued to look inept. The Seahawks kicked a field goal to extend the lead to 16. New York gained possession, then punted. After an exchange of possession once more, they punted again.

The fourth quarter transpired. Eli Manning threw an interception. The Seahawks took over with just 16 yards standing between them and a touchdown.

A completion, an incomplete pass, a Russell Wilson scramble, first down. An incomplete pass — but no! A defensive holding penalty, replay first down, ball at the two-yard line. A Marshawn Lynch run for a loss, followed shortly thereafter by a sack — there’s life in this Giants defense, at least. But then on third down, a pass. And a catch! Doug Baldwin, dragging defenders over the goal line, resulting in a TOUCHDOWN! And now it’s 23-0.

Two more punts, then another Seahawks interception — really, Eli? REALLY?! And that was basically it. Giants backup quarterback Curtis Painter trudged onto the field for the game’s final series and did what most backups in garbage time do: nothing. The scoreboard read 23-0. The shutout was intact, complete. Oh. My. God.

ESPN quickly caught wind of the story. Not the game story. The giveaway story. Federal Way’s Jet Chevrolet would be $420,000 lighter, it seemed. Thankfully, however, they had taken out a $7,000 insurance policy. They were out $7,000 and whatever it cost them to place those ads. They were also likely out of any future dealings with that particular insurance agency, I’d wager.

WHYYYYY???!!! The question rang louder in my head.

Twelve individuals would win $35,000 each, according to Jet Chevrolet’s owners and ESPN’s reporters. Twenty individuals had purchased vehicles during the promotional period and were entitled to 100 entries apiece into the sweepstakes. Just 12 individuals — TWELVE! ONLY 12! YOU AND I, WE COULD HAVE BEEN 13 AND 14!!! — had entered online with no purchase made and were entitled to a single entry each. So a total of 32 different individuals would be vying for 12 chances at $35,000. Those ads didn’t reach a huge audience, it would seem.

I crawled into a tiny little hole in the ground and began to do the math. If 20 people had been given 100 entries apiece and 12 people had been given one entry each into this giveaway, an Average Joe like you or I, who hadn’t bought a car from Jet Chevrolet, would stand a 1-in-2,012 chance of winning $35,000 at the initial draw. From there, things went down as follows:

Assuming an individual who had entered the contest with 100 entries earned the first $35,000 prize, the second draw would give an Average Joe a 1-in-1,912 chance of winning money, since 100 entries had now exited the pot after the first victory. You could therefore infer that by the time the twelfth and final draw occurred, an Average Joe would have as good as a 1-in-912 chance of winning a significant amount of cash. By then, an opportunistic entrant would only be competing against 21 others for that prize, too. It was enough to make one’s stomach turn a little bit.

So here I sit on a Sunday evening, sipping beer and glancing up at my TV every couple minutes as I punch keys on a keyboard, thinking about how it could have been me. I could have been one of those 12 people who entered a contest by doing nothing more than visiting a website and entering in some info. Sure, the odds say it wouldn’t matter anyway, I probably wouldn’t win. But I heard the ad. I tuned out the ad. I didn’t act on the ad. Instead, I read through Twitter and chomped away at a burrito that my body probably didn’t need anyway.

Moral of the story? There isn’t one, really. I guess I’ll pay more attention to advertisements, or at least free giveaways, from here on out. And knowing sports radio, that likely means I’ll be signing up for a number of refinance loans and sex pills, which allow the mood to be right whenever I want it to be right, but for no longer than four hours, of course, because that’s dangerous.

Congratulations to Jet Chevrolet on a successful-ish advertising campaign. Apologies to whichever insurance company took $7,000 and figured they’d be getting off scot-free. Whoops.

But most of all, hooray for a Seahawks shutout. If nothing else, we’re all a little better off because of that.

One thought on “When Shutouts Attack: The Evolution of a Promotion Gone Awry”

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