The Yum Brands-owned company will pay $260,000 in the name of the dancer to its Colonels Scholars, a charity providing college scholarships. That sum could very well entice a grown football player to flap his wings.
The NFL is not amused.
"This has nothing to do with us," spokesperson Brian McCarthy grumbled. "This is Super Bowl Ambush Marketing 101. Everyone looks to draft off the excitement for the game."
If KFC succeeds, that quarter million dollars will be chump change compared to the reported $2.7 million going rate for 30 seconds of air time.
Rob Frankel, a branding expert based in Los Angeles and no big fan of Yum Brands, says: "If they pull it off right, it could be good. I mean, it's a motherhood issue, giving money to charity. And it's not a humiliating thing they're asking a player to do."
Frankel says restaurant chain El Pollo Loco (The Crazy Chicken), with units in California, Arizona and Texas, is identified with the chicken dance. "If I were El Pollo Loco," he joked, "I'd put out press releases, saying to watch the Super Bowl for the player doing our chicken dance and save myself a cool quarter million."
Rick Maynard, a KFC spokesperson, tells Marketing Daily that the company is reaching out to those players most likely to score during the game to "let them know about the offer." KFC also is approaching half-time entertainer Tom Petty with the same deal.
"There are lots of ways to advertise," he says. "We think this is unique, and will get people talking about something that might take place during the game itself." He calls the dance the "domain of bad wedding reception music nationwide," but still thinks viewers will connect the dots from chickens to flapping wings to KFC hot wings, which is the focus of this promotion.
Just to be safe, KFC has lined up former Atlanta Falcons player Jamal Anderson, who was known for his "Dirty Bird" end zone dance, to be on site prior to what KFC refers to as "the big game." "We think this is a fun and creative marketing concept that both fans and the media will be interested in, and we're spreading the word through an online digital campaign," Maynard says. PR is being handled by Weber Shandwick.
The company is also e-mail blasting the nearly million who have signed up to receive news at kfc.com.
KFC is also running a consumer promotion wherein people can upload videos of themselves doing the chicken dance and win "the ultimate big game party," including a flat-panel TV, a limo to bring in the guests, cheerleaders to fire up the crowd, a spread of KFC and a cleaning service for post-party tidying.
Entries are made at showusyourhotwings.com, with the winner announced on Monday.