McDonald's Lost A Bunch Of Money On An Olympics Promo Gone Wrong
It's Simpsons week at Cracked. We'll have more cromulent facts for you every day.
We were telling you yesterday about a Simpsons plot that draws from real life, and we've got another for you today. The 1992 episode "Lisa's First Word" consists mostly of flashbacks, and Marge specifically dates the opening one as happening in spring of 1983. That was nearly 40 years ago now, so it's understandable that many people today won't understand every single cultural reference in the episode.
Bart is a toddler in these flashbacks, and as time moves forward a little to Lisa's birth, the calendar flips to 1984. We see Krusty on TV offering a promotion for Krusty Burger: Get a scratch card with your order, and if the US wins a medal in your card's event, you win a burger. He's then surprised when communist countries boycott the Olympics, giving the US easy wins and putting him on the hook for a bunch of free meals.
That exact thing happened in real life. Not just communist countries boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics, in retaliation for the US boycotting the 1980 Olympics in Moscow (that whole thing, at least, is still remembered today) but the burger promo gone wrong. The Simpsons didn't even throw in an extra twist or exaggerate the situation.
The real-life promotion came from McDonald's, who, like Krusty, ended up overwhelmed with all the extra burgers they had to give away thanks to America's unexpected success. The real story was actually absurd in a way the show never mentioned. Your scratch ticket could get you a free burger (or fries or a Coke, if the US won silver or bronze), and when you picked up this free food, you received another scratch card. Though this wasn't a guaranteed win, since America didn't get medals in every event, it still often happened that a customer would come in with a ticket for one dish, get a ticket that gave them another dish, and then get yet another ticket which fetched even more free food.
In 1976 (the previous year America competed), the US won 94 medals, and they'd win 94 again in 1988. In 1984, they won 174, which was more than a third of all medals awarded during the games. McDonald's lost a large but undisclosed sum on the promo. Still, despite their artificially strong position, this wasn't the Olympics where the US dominated the most. Back in the 1904 Olympics, the US won 231 medals, or over 80% of all medals awarded. The modern Olympics were still pretty new back then, and we were still figuring out how to get the whole world involved.
This fact came from the One Cracked Fact newsletter. Want more like this, straight from your email inbox, without any ads or popups? Join here:
That 1904 Olympics was nuts, read some more about it:
Top image: Fox