Covering the Land of Lincoln

Just Askin’ | Measuring McNugget-mania

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How many fans grab free McNuggets?

The day after a game when an opposing player misses two consecutive free throws, local McDonald’s restaurants typically give away about 1,500 free McNuggets, Central Illinois owner/operator Blake Linders said.

“The majority of fans go to Green Street, but we give away a ton,” Linders said.

Crowds at State Farm Center went wild last time this promotion hit, when Ohio State’s Isaac Likekele bricked two at the line on Tuesday. As reported by The News-Gazette’s Scott Richey, Illinois players are catching on.

“Sometimes I hope they miss just so we can get the crowd going,” Illinois junior Coleman Hawkins said.

Linders and Learfield, Illinois athletics’ multimedia rights holder, did a similar partnership last year when Illinois football forced a 3-and-out. But the energy seems to come in force for the free throw ritual.

“With basketball if they miss the first free throw, the fan base gets really excited at that point,” Linders said. “And the opposing teams are confused as to why people are so excited.”

Fans can sign up by texting “McNuggets” to the right phone number, which routes them to the McDonald’s app. The promotion starts 10:30 am at participating locations the following day and runs for 24 hours.

“The lead time gives us a little window to make sure we’re good to go,” Linders said.

McDonald’s in Danville and Oakwood even see a few fans cashing in for free McNuggets, said Deanna Witzel, owner and operator of six McDonald’s in Vermilion County (and one in Covington, Ind.)

“It’s a fun thing for our employees to do with our customers and cheer on the Illini,” Witzel said.

The Effingham-based Linders owns 18 McDonald’s locations in Central Illinois. The franchisee bought several Champaign County McDonald’s last spring.

“Our biggest thing is getting it to where the fan base is excited. So many games in the Big Ten come down to 5 points or less, and knocking down free throws is key,” Linders said. “We’ll do anything we can to drive that home, in keeping the fan base interested and making the house of ‘Paign come alive again after COVID.”

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