America is a nation of movers, shakers, and eaters. There may not be a country on Earth with a higher rate of food fanaticism than the U.S. of A. The country is certainly obsessed with all things edible, but it’s a stretch to call the country a nation of foodies. While there is a restaurant for every single type of food ever conjured up by humans within driving distance of where you are reading this, most American citizens will settle for a drive-thru somewhere.
The popularity of fast food and the rapid growth of mega corporations within the United States reflect values of the populous. America likes things fast. America likes things big. It’s not a coincidence that America loves Monopoly at McDonald’s since it’s a merger between the ideas of speed and large business.
Writer Michael R. Real once explained the gigantic ratings of the Super Bowl by stating that the event is a “ritualized mass activity” that “structurally reveals specific cultural values proper to American institutions and ideology.” Monopoly at McDonald’s is the same thing. The event has been around long enough that it has become tradition, and to participate in traditions, to have shared experiences, brings us together.
Ever since the McDonald’s version of the game was launched in 1987, no other fast food chain has been able to match this particular contest’s popularity. This is because no other contest is as culturally important.
The real allure of McDonald’s Monopoly is masked by the potential of winning big prizes. That’s the reason people cite for participating in the sweepstakes, but deep down, everyone knows that winning anything is a pipe dream. The odds of getting both of the required stickers to land the grand prize of one million dollars, are one in 3,141,832,163. The odds of being struck by lightning twice on a sunny day are FAR greater. The odds of winning the jackpot in Mega Millions are one in 175,711,536, and the prize is often one hundred times bigger. The only prizes within the realm of possibility are free food, which is fine, but winning a free McFlurry is no reason to throw a parade.
Fast food is the biggest contribution to eating America has ever put forth. The only All-American thing that has had more of an impact on the world than fast food is big business. Monopoly and McDonald’s is a marriage between the two most American things on the planet. Participating in the event makes an American truly feel like an American.
What are the chances that another company could put together a sweepstakes as interwoven with the American fabric as Monopoly at McDonalds? It would a daunting task since McDonald’s is the biggest and most established member of the fast food fraternity, and Monopoly is the most well-known board game on the planet in addition to its big business allusion. Could Subway’s Scrabble promotion make a run at the top if Congress continues to behave like they can’t make sense of the writings on the walls? What if Hardee’s starts a Mouse Trap contest that eventually leads to the construction of an apple pie large enough to play baseball in? Or, perhaps one of those chains getting destroyed by overzealous expansion could have a going out of business food giveaway that involves opening the fridge, taking out some food, and shutting the door without waking up the manager. Does Krispy Kreme have enough left for a Don’t Wake Daddy sweepstakes?