Now there’s risky marketing!

Just as the Major League Baseball season was starting in 2004, Boston Red Sox fans were entertained by the TV ads run by Jordan’s furniture, a favorite Massachusetts retailer. The ads showed Eliot Tatelman, Jordan’s ponytailed chief executive, making an unusual offer. If customers bought sofas, chairs, beds or dining-room tables from Jordan’s between March 7th and April 16th, those purchases would be free—provided that the Red Sox won the World Series.

It seemed like a long shot, but 30,000 customers took advantage of the promotion. To protect himself from a catastrophic pay-up if the Sox did win, Tatelman took out an insurance policy to cover any possible losses.

The rest is history. The Sox won, and 30,000 true believers got their furniture for free. But then Tatelman began to notice an unexpected windfall as the winners began coming back to his store to spend their prize money on more furniture.

— Adapted from “Red Sox Win Leaves Furniture Buyers Cheering,” USA Today.