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In 1995, Major League Baseball's originally scheduled opening day came and went without a pitch. The labor dispute ended soon after, but fans nationwide were furious.

"We're fairly big baseball fans here, and we were pissed," says Mark Bozzini, president of Pete's Brewing Co.

The brewer got even with Salary Cap GreedStakes, its 21/2-month early-season promotion mocking baseball's financial bureaucracy. It did much more than help Mr. Bozzini let off steam: It helped double his flagship Pete's Wicked Ale brand's sales over 1994.

Created by Pete's promotion agency McCracken Brooks, Minneapolis, it offered consumers traditional merchandise prizes along with a grand slam: $10,000 one-year "salaries" to 18 winners who will remain, literally, on Pete's payroll through Labor Day this year.

"Maybe it's a cynical approach, but I think it's realistic," he says. "This is how people in the 21-to-29 age group view the world."

Consumers turned in 250,000 entries for the prize-twice the number expected. Pete's Wicked Ale sales doubled in 1995, to $65 million from $33 million in 1994. GreedStakes lifted Pete's sales 150% while it ran, he adds.

"Young baseball fans like ourselves thought this whole strike was a joke, and we were sending up the mockery that the owners and players had made of the game," says Mr. Bozzini, 37. "It was a social statement, but it was also an effective promotional idea."

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