If you’re a sports fan, you probably know Jim McIngvale. But you probably don’t know him by that name. You know him as “Mattress Mack.” He sells mattresses for a living, but you don’t know him for his bedding. You know him for his betting.

Never heard of him? Still read on – this is a fascinating story on how to market your business.

Mattress Mack owns Gallery Furniture, a three-store furniture chain in Texas. Like any smart businessperson, he runs promotions to drum up sales. But what makes Mack different is he runs promotions on his mattresses to fund his own personal interest in sports betting. 

Here’s how it works: Mattress Mack wants extra income to place large bets on sports games, with the potential to win enormous sums of money. He runs promotions at his furniture store to earn extra income that allows him to place these large bets.

The promotion is as follows: any patron who purchases a mattress over a certain value within a certain time gets ALL their money back AND keeps the mattress…if Mattress Mack wins the sports bet.

It’s a PR dream.

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Why we’re talking about Mattress Mack now

Just a few days before this article was published, it looked like Mattress Mack was about to lose out on winning the largest recorded payout in (legal) sports betting history – to the tune of $75 million. In fact, this entire article was initially written thinking he had truly lost the bet due to the reporting at the time.

But the Astros didn’t let themselves, or their biggest fan, down and brought home the W. On Saturday, November 5th, The Houston Astros and Mattress Mack each won big. Houston Astros won the World Series for a second time, and Mattress Mack whooped as he realized he just won $75 million.

It’s an exciting win, and we have a lot to learn from the Texan entrepreneur which is why we are giving him his very own Weird Marketing blog post. (It’s not $75 million, but it has a lot of heart.)

In this article, we’ll talk about:

  • How Jim McIngvale became Mattress Mack
  • How you can use promotional sales to grow your business
  • Whether or not Mattress Mack’s method is something you should imitate

Who is Mattress Mack? 

Everything is bigger in Texas, including, apparently, the sports bettors. But we need to talk about who Mattress Mack is before you can understand why his bets on his beloved Houston Astros make sense. How is he able to place massive bets, lose millions, and then “keep on carrying on” with life?

Let’s look at the man behind the moniker: Jim McIngvale.

In 1981, Jim McIngvale and his wife Linda moved to Houston to open their first Gallery Furniture store with only $5,000. In 2022 dollars, that is about $16,000. At first, when I saw this figure, I knew that would be enough to open a modest furniture store. But then I realized that was everything they had when they moved to Houston, not just to open their store. With luck and a whole lot of hard work, they have grown that small furniture store into something much bigger, as they now own 3 Gallery Furniture stores in the greater Houston area. 

Even from the beginning, McIngvale knew the importance of good branding and sticking with company values. McIngvale felt that people deserved “good prices, to be treated well, and same-day delivery.” And he continued to focus on customer convenience as online retailing shuttered most brick-and-mortar stores. 

After reading through the history page on Gallery Furniture’s webpage, it occurred to me that McIngvale almost took a page out of IKEA’s book by making furniture shopping an experience and not a chore. In his stores, on a typical weekend, customers can expect chocolate cake, coffee, fresh-squeezed lemonade, and warm cookies. 

As if the above were not enough, there is even a monkey habitat, tropical bird aviary, and a 30,000-gallon aquarium. I want to go just for that! 

Another fun tidbit about McIngvale is that he was the OG actor in his stores’ commercials. He’s been calling himself Mattress Mack since the 1980s promising his customers on their old box TVs that “Gallery Furniture saves you money!” 

Clearly, Mattress Mack must have saved his pennies, because he now has a net worth of $300 million. This is also amazing considering that before his outlandish sports betting, his company had a philanthropic arm starting only two years after opening his first store.

Gallery Furniture has given away 30 households’ worth of furniture through an annual Christmas giveaway. It has housed and fed 500 victims from Hurricane Harvey for weeks. They’ve donated 10,000 mattresses and 20,000 pairs of shoes. McIngvale co-founded the Peace of Mind foundation for those affected by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, funded a St. Luke’s Mobile Stroke Unit at UTHealth in the Texas Medical Center, and furnished USO facilities around the world. All in all, he’s helped raised more than $12 million for victims of natural disasters. And these are just a few examples of his good deeds.

Mattress Mack’s first public foray into high-dollar sports betting started in 2019

In 2019, Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale placed his first attention-grabbing bet on the Houston Astros to the tune of $3.5 million dollars. By the end of the MLB season, that bet rose to $13 million ahead of the Astros v Nationals game. While Mattress Mack lost this huge bet, he grabbed hold of the spotlight in a whole new way and has yet to let go. 

“I feel like I hedged perfectly,” McIngvale told The Action Network while sitting in his car after Game 7. “The worst my customers got were great mattresses, the best would have been great, free mattresses. I would have loved for the Astros fans to win, but we had two bad games.”

Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale

Since 2019, McIngvale continues to combine his love for furniture (and money-making) with his love for sports. According to Texas Monthly, Jim has “given away free mattresses to celebrate World Series, Super Bowls, NBA Finals, Kentucky Derbies, and several other sporting events.” 

I attempted to list out every single win and loss that he has had since 2019, but I must say I was not entirely prepared for such a herculean task. Below is what I have been able to dig up so far but please let me know on social media (@HelloPangea) if there are any others I need to add! 

Losses

2019
  • Lost $13 million on Houston Astros (against Washington Nationals) in MLB World Series
2020
2021
2022

Wins

  • Won $75 million ($65M profit) on Houston Astros winning the World Series in 2022
  • Won $15 million ($12.2M profit) on Kansas winning NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in 2022
  • Won on Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ at Super Bowl in 2021. The original bet was “$3.36 million on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3.5” 
  • Won on the Houston Astros (with a $1 million bet) winning the World Series in 2017. The promotion promised anyone who spent $3,000 or more on mattresses and beds if the team won. He made good on his promise and shelled out over $10 million to his customers. 

So what is Mattress Mack doing with his winnings?

When I was little and couldn’t sleep, my grandma would tell me to think about what I would do if I won the lottery (followed by a request for 10%). So what is Mattress Mack doing to do now that he has won the largest bet in legal sports betting history?

Why, he is going to give majority of it back to his customers, of course.

While betting websites Caesars, BetMGM, Unibet, and Betfred are all whipping out their proverbial checkbooks, Mack is busy notifying his customers of their furniture rebates and then some. After all, he was feeling generous with this promotion and customers with qualifying purchases will not only receive a full refund rebate, but they will actually receive DOUBLE their original purchase price. Someone spent the required $3,000 on qualifying purchases? They are getting $6,000 back. Did you go wild and crazy and spend $7,000 on a luxe bedroom set? Well you get to keep that bedroom set as well as a rebate for $14,000. Might as well go ahead and redo the guest room!

My real interest is making sure the customers win because the customers will be happy and thrilled and smiling

Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale

Considering Mack is giving his lucky winners a 200% rebate, it is likely that Mattress Mack will not see much profit from this history making win. And he’s just fine with that because he understands the value of effective marketing over lump sum payments.

Wait…how does Mattress Mack make any money if he’s often losing sports bets and/or giving away his winnings?

My mattresses obviously had profit baked into them. I would do this again tomorrow — and I probably will. It’s fun to be part of the greatest story in gambling history. 

Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale

Whether McIngvale wins or loses his bets, he gets headlines. Whether he wins or loses his bets, he sells mattresses. In other words, he’s figured out how to make sports bets a form of investment.

McIngvale doesn’t look at betting as the main way to make money. He instead looks at it as an “insurance policy” on his furniture promotions. He only bets a certain percentage of what he makes from the promotions. While the bets are funded by the promotions, he doesn’t put 100% of the money made in gross sales directly into the bet and he also only runs these promotions for short periods of time several times a year. 

To us average people, hearing someone place a $10 million dollar bet on a sports game is insane. And then for that bet to be made with business funds is even more ludicrous. But McIngvale has 3 highly successful furniture stores that bring in millions of dollars in gross sales specifically due to his sports-related promotions. Then he only invests a fraction of those sales into bets. 

It’s gonna be pretty much a wash of giving the customers their money back, which is what we really want to do because then word of mouth advertising lasts for 20 or 30 years

Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale

To understand why this works, let’s take Mattress Mack’s wacky process and apply it on a much smaller scale. An author runs a 2-week-long giveaway. All entrants need to do is follow him on social media and they are entered into the giveaway. The author gains followers and is only out the cost of setting up the giveaway and the cost of the prize. 

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Now step it up a bit, and imagine a promotion like the one Willy Wonka ran in his movie. Hundreds upon thousands of chocolate bars are sold, but only 5 bars have a golden ticket inside, giving the winner a never before, behind-the-scenes look at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Mr. Wonka raked in plenty of dough through the promotion and all it cost him was the expense of printing the tickets and conducting a single factory tour.

Want one more example? Think back to when soda companies had prizes under the caps of their sodas. Perhaps the prize was a free tropical vacation. The vacation costs a ton of money, but it is worth it to the company because more customers are buying the product for the chance to win. To a large company, paying $40,000 on a brand new SUV for a customer is worth it if they are bringing in millions of dollars in their promotion. 

How Mattress Mack still gained $2.55 million in 2021 even after losing $3.35 million

Here’s how Jim McIngvale can be Mattress Mack and still have a net worth of $300 million dollars. Here, I will paraphrase what Texas Monthly outlined in their 2021 article on Mattress Mack. 

Customers who purchase a mattress (and sometimes other items) costing $3,000 or more during the promotion period have the opportunity to win their money back. But they only get their money back if Mattress Mack wins the sports bet.

If Mattress Mack loses the bet, he loses whatever money he placed on the bet. But he doesn’t have to pay his customers back. If he wins the bet, he will have to pay his customers back, but the cost of doing so will be less than what he wins on the bet.

In 2021, he placed a $3.35 million bet on the Astros with 10:1 odds. If the Astros won, he’d walk away with $35.6 million. If they lose, then that $3.35 million disappears.

According to Action Network, a sports-betting site, Mattress Mack’s promotion that year earned him $5.9 million in gross mattress sales. That means he still came out on top by $2.55 million.

If he won the bet and had to refund every single dollar of those mattress sales, he’d have $35.6 million minus $5.9 million and the original $3.35 million bet, leaving him with a cool $26.35 million still in his pocket.

Another example of Mattress Mack winning by losing, this time with the Kentucky Derby

Want another example? Consider Mattress Mack’s bet on the Kentucky Derby. The promotion conditions were the same – get a mattress worth $3,000 or more, get your money back if he wins the bet.

He placed a $2.4 million bet on horse Essential Quality at 5:2 odds. If Essential Quality won, Mattress Mack would win $8.4 million ($6 million in profit). If the horse lost, Mattress Mack lost $2.4 million.

Essential Quality lost the race. Mattress Mack lost his bet. This time, unlike the last, Mattress Mack did not make a profit, although we’re not sure how much the loss exactly was.

What he did, however, gain was attention. More people bought mattresses. His brand name became more recognizable. If some of those customers were new and decide to come back later for future purchases, he might end up profiting financially after all.

Is Mattress Mack onto something? 

Mattress Mack is really doing something right when it comes to his mattress promotions. Not just because it is making him loads of money, but also because he is connecting with customers in a deeply unique way.

McIngvale is taking his Texan furniture chain store and making it become a part of Texas lore. He is:

  1. Generating huge press on his stores through the promotions.
  2. Connecting his store name with the local major league sports teams.
  3. Giving his customers a risk-free way to participate in record-breaking bets.

I like the action. I like the adrenaline and playing for high stakes. It makes you want to get up in the morning.

Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale

I want to focus most on that third point, though. We talk a lot about giving customers a unique experience. It’s important to find a way to stand out from the competition in a new way.

Jim McIngvale is definitely doing that. He’s also giving customers an incentive to buy from him and entertaining them by watching sports games and hoping his bet wins. After all, if Mattress Mack wins, then his customers win too!

This actually brings to mind the Taco Bell’s “Steal a Base, Steal a Taco” campaign that runs during the MLB World Series, or when Papa John’s gave away free pizzas in 2013 based on Super Bowl XLVII’s coin toss. These businesses are taking advantage of highly covered sporting events, giving a small amount of free products to customers, knowing that the customers will end up purchasing additional items once they arrive at the store.

Another example of this? The Victoria Secret free panties coupon – a no strings attached coupon giving customers a free pair of panties as long as they went in the store. There is plenty of controversy surrounding Victoria’s Secret, especially following the Hulu documentary, “Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons” (and music artist Jax’s song “I Know Victoria’s Secret”), but you cannot deny that the business practice of offering free panties brought customers flocking to the stores.

Should everyone run their businesses like Mattress Mack?

Absolutely not.

But everyone SHOULD look at their business and ask themselves the following 4 questions. 

  1. Am I passionate about my business?
  2. How do I show that passion to my customers? 
  3. Do I have a healthy balance of stable products/services and high risk-high reward investments?
  4. How can I provide so much value to my customers that there is automatic brand loyalty? 

Mattress Mack answered all these questions. He’s passionate about sports and he knows how to share it with his customers. He makes money on something as boring as bedding, which is what makes it possible to do something as exciting as betting. Gallery Furniture is still highly profitable.

Lastly, McIngvale has said time and time again in interviews that the betting promotions drum up a lot of business for his stores as everyone wants to be a part of something big. 

In a time and place that can sometimes feel quite lonely, don’t we all want to feel like we are a part of something big? 

And to Mattress Mack, if you’re reading this: whether you won or lost the $75 million, you already won the attention of the American people. If you’re ever in Chattanooga, I’ll let you buy me a beer.

Does the idea of marketing a business make you feel like a little kid wearing a big lab coat?

Join over 1,000 other mad scientists. Download our FREE Experimental Marketing Guide.