In 1984, McDonald's wished to piggyback their promotions off of the enormously popular Olympics which was being hosted in Los Angeles, California that year.
The promotion was coined, "When the U.S. Wins, You Win."
The idea was you would scratch-off a card given to you while purchasing food at the fast food giant, and you could be eligible to win free food based on what type of medal U.S. Olympic Athletes earned, and which event was listed on your scratch-off card.
=> Gold Medal won you a free Big Mac
==> Silver Medal won you free fires
===> Bronze Medal won you a free Coke
Pretty attractive, right?
What McDonald's didn't count on that year was the U.S.'s biggest competitor worldwide, the Soviet Union (they rank #2 behind the U.S. for total Olympic medals), was boycotting the Olympics that year, leading to an unprecedented amount of medals for U.S. Olympic athletes.
In 1984, the U.S. took home 174 medals, and as a result, many experts report McDonald's had loses in the "millions" which was obviously a lot of money in 1984.
The New York Times said: "McDONALD'S will not know until September how many Big Macs, french fries and Coca- Colas it gave away during its Olympic medal campaign, but the number is sure to be mindboggling."
In all, McDonald's may never report the overall loses from that campaign, but the lesson is simple: Never promise to give-away an open-ended amount of stuff, because rest assured, that number could quadruple your total inventory.
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