Like a fighter taking a bout on short notice, you can’t expect a writer forced into an assignment to be on his very best. Short training camp, meet less time to flesh out an idea or, you know, think of an actual basketball idea anybody cares about.
Instead of diving into anything basketball related, we’re instead going to talk about something of equal importance: pizza.
It’s no secret that a lot of people hate the current set-up between the Toronto Raptors and Pizza Pizza, whereby if the team wins and scores 100 points, fans can take their ticket to a “traditional” Pizza Pizza location the next day and redeem it for a free slice of pepperoni or cheese pizza.
I should really just say “who cares” or “get over it” or anything else the homie Eric Koreen said on the most recent Talking Raptors podcast, but I can’t do that.
And here’s why: anything that takes one of the most wonderful things on planet Earth – in this case, pizza – and makes it in any way a bad thing needs to be stopped. This is like turning unicorns into child-impaling death machines or having Phil Kessel suit up for the Montreal Canadiens (I’d say Team USA but, well, you know).
Pizza is normally such a glorious part of life that one lucky man has eaten nothing but pizza for 25 years. Seriously. Dude’s a hero. If this guy knew that here in Toronto, pizza was causing pain and annoyance, he’d probably be very upset. So would some other heroes.
If you’re unfamiliar, here are some of the issues with the current setup:
*Pizza Pizza is not the preferred brand of pizza for many pizza lovers. Okay, this has nothing to do with the setup, but it’s unfortunate that they’re the official pizza provider of the Raptors and the ones who give out the free slices. True story: their pizza is so mediocre that following the Raptors Republic Winter War tournament, I took a stack of free slice coupons that they donated to work and it took three days for someone to use one, and Pizza Pizza is literally right next door to us.
*Under the old system, it could reward fans in a loss, leading fans to cheer the team while losing if they hit 100 points. Some still seem to think this is the case, but it’s not.
*Stan Van Gundy doesn’t like it, and SVG knows best.
*Here’s the major reason though: It incentivizes fans, many of whom in the live audience can often appear…let’s say uninitiated, to be nice, to cheer for the wrong things. Now that pizza only comes only in a win, this is less of an issue, but you still have scenarios like on Jan. 29 when the Raptors scored 98 points in a win against the Orlando Magic but the crowd groaned as the clock expired, rather than cheer a 15-point win. Ditto for the 98-91 win on Feb. 21 against Cleveland.
So what should the Raptors and Pizza Pizza do?
Well, there are a few options: give out pizza for 100 points scored, give out pizza for a win, give out pizza for a win with 100 points scored, give out pizza for keeping the opponent under 100 points, give out pizza for keeping the opponent under 100 points in a win, change the pizza provider to somewhere much better, or just give me free pizza all the time, whenever I desire.
Each has it’s own issues. I’ve heard the defense thing suggested before, but here’s the core issue with that: as much as it might make hardcore fans roll their eyes, the team no doubt likes the crowd exploding for the 100th point. It comes across well on the broadcast and makes the ACC seem louder in general. It’s stupid, but in their eyes, any noise is good noise, I’m sure. Rewarding defense would take away that moment each game, save for perhaps a cheer at the buzzer that was coming anyway.
There’s also the financial component – giving out pizza just for wins is crazy, right?
Maybe not. Because I am the nerdiest of all nerds (shout out to Sloan), I pulled some data and made some assumptions to compare the cost of different promotions.
The table below shows the five-year cost associated with different “pizza thresholds,” using the assumption that giving away a slice of pizza costs Pizza Pizza $1. Over the past five seasons, the Raptors have averaged 17,473 fans for home games, so we use that as the attendance figure for every game, and we plug in four different “redemption rates” (the percentage of people who actually get their free slice – I’d guess this is probably below 25 percent but it wouldn’t make for much of an exercise using tiny numbers). Anyway, here goes:
|Claim %/Method||100Pts||W, 100Pts||Win||D 100Pts||W, D 100Pts|
In reality, these probably overstate the actual costs – the Raptors are more likely to lose against good teams, which draw bigger crowds, and win against bad teams, which draw smaller crowds. But you get the idea.
The cost of the different style ranges from $240K to $441K with a 25 percent redemption rate, a not insignificant 84 percent swing.
If you’re curious, here’s how often in the past five seasons each outcome has occurred (they’ve had 183 home games in total):
100 points scored: 82
Win with 100 points scored: 55
Limit opponent to 100 points scored: 101
Win, limiting opponents to 100 points scored: 70
It sure seems as if Pizza Pizza has chosen the “cheap” option here, opting for the giveaway that costs them the least. Maybe that’s the actual reason they changed the format this season, maybe it was because they didn’t want people cheering in a loss. Never forget that C.R.E.A.M., though.
So, if you want Pizza Pizza to reward wins, you’re looking at a 65 percent uptick in the cost of their current sponsorship.
Of course, there’s one other relevant number:
That was Pizza Pizza’s reported sales revenue for 2012, the latest data I could find (although it includes whatever the hell Pizza 73 is).
It now seems pretty silly to quibble over what amounts to about $4,500 for an additional giveaway, if it gets people to stop complaining about a promotion that your brand is associated with. So just give away a slice for a win.