McIngvale’s $7-Million Super Bowl Bet: Crazy Like a Fox
Horse owner and furniture salesman extraordinaire Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale was all over the news in the wake of the Seattle Seahawks' trouncing of the Denver Broncos in Sunday's Super Bowl – and not just in the Houston, Texas, marketplace where his Gallery Furniture store is based.
McIngvale, who is known for his outlandish promotions, went out on a limb recently by promising full refunds to anyone who spent $6,000 or more on furniture in the days leading up to the Super Bowl if Seattle wound up beating Denver. The promotion was a huge success, with shoppers flooding Gallery Furniture and keeping the delivery trucks rolling right up until game time on Sunday. When the Seahawks upset the Broncos, however, McIngvale was out $7 million.
Make no mistake about it: McIngvale is crazy…like a fox. He's built his fortune on creative promotions and publicity stunts like this one.
“He's going to get millions of dollars of publicity on this, which he loves, along with good will,” said Keith Chamblin, a senior vice president at the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. “It's amazing. But $7 million, that's a big number.”
Already there has been a column about the $7-million loss by Darren Rovell on ESPN.com, another article in the Washington Post, an Associated Press story that appears on websites from Bellingham, Wash., to Birmingham, Ala., and even a story on a Spanish language site. And, of course, there has been all kinds of publicity about McIngvale on television and newspapers in the Houston market. Expect a second wave of national publicity on cable television. The galleryfurniture.com website is promoting the $7-million loss, too, with the headline screaming across the top of the home page, “CUSTOMERS WIN $7,000,000.”
“He's already got his promotion in value back,” said Bryan Pettigrew, senior vice president of NTRA Advantage and formerly with Sam Houston Race Park, where he worked on local promotions with McIngvale.
“He is definitely an innovator of sports promotions, always looking for something new, exciting and memorable. He understands getting his Gallery Furniture and galleryfurniture.com name out there.”
A racing executive once looked at how much McIngvale was pouring into a Gallery Furniture promotion at the racetrack and asked Pettigrew, “How is he making money doing this?”
He brought Thoroughbreds into his showroom and put galleryfurniture.com's name on Turfway Park's premier race for 3-year-olds, the Spiral Stakes. He also assisted the NTRA on marketing the sport in its early days, but McIngvale's style didn't fit very well in the parameters of horse racing marketing committees.
When I reached McIngvale at Gallery Furniture Monday afternoon, he picked up the phone hoping I was calling about Discipline, a 3-year-old Sky Mesa colt who broke his maiden by 10 1⁄2 lengths for trainer Chris Richard at Oaklawn Park on Friday. “I need to get me a Triple Crown winner,” he said, “then I can really promote this.” McIngvale almost seemed a little let down when I asked about the “big game” promotion instead.
“From a financial standpoint this didn't go well,” he said, “but we get an A+ from a marketing standpoint.
“The best thing is it brought out tons of millennials,” he said, referring to those born after 1980. “We own the baby boomer market, as does horse racing, but there are plenty of affluent millennials, and that's what we were looking for. We resonated with trust, with product, and credibility. They are talking about this at the water cooler at work, but also on Facebook and Twitter.”
Is there anything horse racing can learn from the promotion that just “cost” McIngvale $7 million?
“It's got to be fun and topical,” said McIngvale. “And don't be afraid to go out on a limb.”