With 2:05 left in the third quarter of a recent game at Staples Center between the Los Angeles Lakers and the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder, public address announcer Lawrence Tanter teases fans with tacos. If the Lakers win and hold their opponents under 100 points, the fans get a coupon for two free tacos at Jack in the Box.
But with the Lakers down 90-68, fans know they won’t get jack.
Still, Blain Skinner, the Lakers’ executive director for corporate sponsorships, said the promo serves its purpose, even in lean basketball times. “Fans love the promotion,” he said. “In fact, after games, it’s amazing how many fans tweet about the promotion and post pictures on Instagram.”
Indeed, since the Lakers began the promotion during the 2005-06 season, a “We want tacos!” chant has been turned into a Facebook page, a Twitter hashtag (as in “To the victor go the spoils…#Lakers #WeWantTacos”) and has even found its way onto Jack in the Box T-shirts. But as far as fans scoring tacos, there have been fewer such moments. The underachieving Lakers had given out taco coupons only eight times this season through their first 22 home games. By contrast, during their last full season of 2010-11 (the 2011-12 season was truncated by a lockout), the Lakers gave out coupons 13 times through their first 22 home contests.
Projected over the full 41 home dates, that’s about eight or nine fewer games this season after which 19,000 people won’t stream through the doors of their local Jack in the Box franchise, get their free tacos and probably buy more food.
Adding to the taco famine is the fact that on Nov. 12, the Lakers hired Mike D’Antoni as head coach to replace Mike Brown. D’Antoni favors an up-tempo style. His Lakers score more, but because of a lack of defense, so do their opponents.
“While tacos are not given away as often, the taco promotion is still mentioned: ‘Fans will go home hungry without tacos’ or ‘The Lakers need to show some D if their fans are going to get their tacos,’” said Angela Mailloux, vp and associate managing director for Horizon Media, who negotiates the regional sports deals for Jack in the Box. “It is still promoted during the game, and the mentions are still in the fans’ heads.”
Robert Tuchman, president of Goviva, a purveyor of once-in-a-lifetime experiences and a sports marketing expert, suggested a promo tweak. “Jack in the Box was probably hoping the Lakers were going to hire a defensive-minded coach, but unfortunately they got the exact opposite,” he said. “They might want to change the promotion next year to 110 points.”
Lakers’ Skinner said as of now there haven’t been any such discussions. “We’ll see how things go from now until the All-Star break, which begins Feb. 15,” he said.