Raising Cane’s, Sun Devil Athletics capitalize on hoops promotion

Free Raising Cane’s meals have been a slam dunk for ASU men’s basketball fans this season.

Raising Cane’s, which opened its Tempe location on University Drive and Rural Road in August, partnered with ASU Athletics for the 2012-13 college basketball season for a promotion offering a free kids combo — locally referred to as a “Sparky Snack” — after every home conference game the Sun Devils win. A Sparky Snack includes two chicken fingers, fries and Cane’s sauce.

The promotion has been successful, as the Sun Devils won five of their seven home Pac-12 games. It will remain in effect for ASU’s final game versus Washington at Wells Fargo Arena on Saturday.

Raising Cane’s assistant manager Tori Lopez said her store has become a popular hangout for fans after games.

“We have a line out the door on every game now, whether they win or not,” she said.

Sun Devil Athletic game experience manager Conrad Bradburn said there isn’t any hard evidence that the promotion drives students to the games, but it gives them a more enjoyable experience.

“The experience is a little bit better, because we didn’t have something like that last year,” he said. “First and foremost, (students) want to see a win, but if you add that benefit, that always motivates them to (attend games). I think students always enjoy getting free stuff.”

ASU isn’t the first university promoting free Raising Cane’s meals for college basketball games.

MRG Marketing & Management, which manages Raising Cane’s Southwest locations, has used similar promotions at Las Vegas locations during UNLV’s past three seasons.

Chief Marketing Officer Justin Micatrotto said Grand Canyon University is also using this promotion.

“Tying in with universities and specifically athletics is as much a part of Cane’s as anything,” he said. “The relationships you form with this department last a long time and you will always have a common topic to talk passionately about — sports.”

While Raising Cane’s Tempe location is already a popular eatery among students, Micatrotto credits the ASU Pep Band for supporting the restaurant on game nights.

“This group comes out in droves at each and every event, and I would say they have been an unexpected highlight of our relationship with ASU,” he said.

Raising Cane’s has required students from other universities to redeem their meal with their game ticket. Because most students attend men’s basketball games using a wristband, Bradburn said the athletic department adjusted by distributing vouchers at arena exits after every win.

Bradburn said Sun Devil Athletics tried a similar promotion during the football season, guaranteeing a free Sparky Snack to everyone in the stadium if the team returned an opening kickoff for a touchdown. This relatively rare play never happened during the 2012 season, but Bradburn said the athletic department will explore other promotional options next fall.

Micatrotto and Bradburn both said the promotion has helped their organizations, and they would like to see it return for future seasons. They want the promotion to be such a permanent part of the men’s basketball game experience that a “We want Cane’s” chant becomes a fixture in every game.

“We plan on running this promo for years to come and our expectation is to get the whole house chanting,” Micatrotto said. “Until then, we still have work to do.”

 

Reach the reporter at jnacion@asu.edu or follow him @Josh_Nacion