Pontiac Drives NCAA's March Madness

Pontiac is boosting its multi-year sponsorship of NCAA sports this month with several integrated ad and promotional campaigns tied to March Madness. Pontiac's presence on the Final Four college athletic Web sites and on sites like CBS.com, NCAAsports.com, and SportsLine.com, among others, is its largest Web-based effort for the NCAA.

The effort is via Leo Burnett, Pontiac's AOR, Digitas, and GM Planworks, which handled the media buy.

The work includes a host of online elements--e.g., a "Virtual NCAA Final Four" animated online game, Web videos hosted by Bryant Gumbel and tied to a Web-based promo, "The Pontiac Game-Changing Performance." The promotion, in its third year, allows fans to select the "defining moment" in the game or season.

Pontiac is doing likewise during NCAA Division 1 Women's Basketball Championship, with ESPN selecting the Women's Game-Changing Performance on April 3.

Chris Hornberger, Pontiac advertising manager, says Pontiac's involvement with NCAA reaches the right audience, since 30% of fans are aware of Pontiac and twice as likely to consider buying a Pontiac vehicle as the general market.

He adds that while the audience is mostly male, the mix becomes more evenly balanced during the Final Four. "And obviously, in women's basketball, that's a great market that's growing." In addition to the Game-Changing Plays announcements during broadcasts on CBS in a segment hosted by Gumbel, Pontiac will have billboards, onscreen crawlers and logos promoting the brand and promo.

In an effort to drive consumers to dealerships, Pontiac is also offering 100 trips to the 2007 Final Four, per Hornberger, the largest ticket giveaway by a sponsor in NCAA history. To register, one must go to a local Pontiac dealership and receive scratch-off game pieces. Winners get air fare, tickets and hotel accommodations.

Finally, Pontiac will run new Final Four-themed ads featuring Texas Tech coach Bob Knight, which tout the G6 sedan and Torrent crossover, the dealership ticket give-away and Pontiac's March sales event called Pontiac Upgrade, which allows buyers to upgrade vehicle features for free.

"If you incorporate the digital elements, it's our biggest March Madness campaign to date," says Hornberger. "We have taken it to the next level with digital, targeting more by relevancy than scale, both by targeting aficionados, and even more so, schools nominated to play."