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Originally published Friday, October 22, 2010 at 5:49 PM

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Fans, advertisers cheer 'freemiums' tied to Seahawks results

Corporate sponsors of the Seahawks seek to attract new customers using a variety of giveaways linked to the team's performance.

Seattle Times business reporter

Football fan James Wagoner was disappointed to see his beloved Seahawks lose 27-24 to the Green Bay Packers at Qwest Field on Aug. 21 — but at least the Tumwater dad took home a consolation prize.

Because the Seahawks scored more than 21 points, Wagoner was able to show his game ticket at a local IHOP restaurant to redeem a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes.

"We were going there anyway because IHOP is right by our house," he says, referring to his wife and young son.

"I don't know that a free short stack would make me go out of my way," he adds. "But it's kind of cool."

This fall, the Seahawks and their marketing partners are giving fans more to root for besides another "W" in the win-loss column.

An array of giveaways awaits The 12th Man when the team racks up some impressive game statistics — from free haircuts for a defensive touchdown to a complimentary Top Pot doughnut for a 100-yard receiver.

The freebies help corporate sponsors introduce themselves to new customers. After all, few things have more pull in a tough economy than 100 percent off.

Sponsor redemptions have come a ways since a decade ago, when the prospect of a free Taco Bell Chalupa added a bit more excitement to a Seahawks touchdown on an opening kickoff return. The team and its partners now tie twice as many "freemiums" to game statistics as ever before and make them available to tens of thousands of fans.

Consider Sunday's home game against the Arizona Cardinals.

If the Seahawks score three touchdowns and win, fans get six free toppings for a large cheese pizza at Papa John's.

Jack in the Box will give away a free Jumbo Jack burger if the Hawks sack the Cardinals QB three or more times.

And if the Hawks make a touchdown in the red zone, local 7-Eleven stores promise ticket-holders a free bag of Oberto jerky and small Slurpee.

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In all, the team's marketing partners offer more than $2 million in free stuff should the Seahawks meet or exceed at least seven goals and fans take full advantage (though a 100 percent redemption rate is virtually unattainable).

"It's something else to cheer about in addition to the game," said Ron Jenkins, vice president of corporate sponsorships for the Seahawks and Sounders, which also have gotten into the giveaway act with a few marketing partners. "Besides feeling good about the team playing well, now fans are rooting for something that will benefit them even more directly."

For local merchants, the freebies are a way to win over Seahawks nation, especially during tough economic times.

"Tickets are expensive, and it's a big investment for fans to be engaged in the sport," said Stacey Donahue, vice president of marketing at Oberto Brands. "So this is giving back to them."

The Seattle-based company gave away several thousand bags of jerky (each worth $4.99) through 7-Eleven stores after Matt Hasselbeck threw a 9-yard TD pass against the San Diego Chargers on Sept. 26.

Seahawks fans scored another freebie Sept. 12 when Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant returned an interception 32 yards for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers.

Great Clips, which offers ticket-holders a free haircut if the Seahawks make a defensive touchdown, gave away about 5,000 haircuts ($15 value) at more than 70 Western Washington locations over the next seven days.

Most who came in for a free cut were first-time customers, said Susan Rooney, the owner of five Great Clips franchise locations in the Seattle area.

Along with a Sounders promotion (fans get a free haircut if the team makes three or more goals), the freemiums have been "phenomenally successful because we get so many new clients," said Rooney. "It's better than any promotion we've ever done for getting new clients."

Plus, she added, "It's just fun as a retailer to have the name of your hair-care salon shouted at a big sports venue. It's just crazy."

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com

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