On March 3 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Auntie Anne's Pretzels will host its largest sampling event of the year – Free Pretzel Day.

During that time, Auntie Anne's will offer one free Original or Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel per guest at its approximately 900 domestic locations. This year's promotion is the company's fourth Free Pretzel Day.

The idea behind Free Pretzel Day dates back to the company's founder, "Auntie" Anne Beiler, who first introduced individuals to her pretzels by providing them free to passersby at her farmer's market stand in Downingtown, Pa.

Twenty-four years later, the franchise anticipates a systemwide giveaway of more than 1 million pretzels in 2012.

"Free Pretzel Day provides a wonderful opportunity to thank our loyal guests," said Heather Neary, chief marketing officer of Auntie Anne's. "For those individuals who have never tasted a fresh, hot Auntie Anne's Pretzel, Free Pretzel Day serves as an excellent opportunity to sample our signature products risk-free. We're confident they'll become lifelong fans."

Auntie Anne's executives are hoping the event builds brand loyalty and recognition among new and existing patrons. For the three weeks following the 2010 Free Pretzel Day, the system experienced an increase in comparable sales over 2009 counts by 3.5 percent.

Also, to help support the event, Auntie Anne's Inc. has designated the day as royalty free for its network of franchise partners.

Read more about marketing, branding and promotions.

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