Pontiac Pulls Out The Stops For 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. The effort includes Pontiac's largest Internet-based program around the NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball Championship. It also comprises the largest giveaway of tickets to the Finals, as well as a Pontiac presence on Final Four college athletic Web sites and on sites like CBS.com, NCAAsports.com, and SportsLine.com, among others.

The effort includes a host of online elements--e.g., a "Virtual NCAA Final Four" animated online game, and 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. After each round leading to the Final Four, CBS will nominate four plays in a Pontiac-branded segment, with votes culled from the NCAA Web site, where fans, alumni and students can cast votes. CBS will announce the finalists on March 28. Fans can then vote online to choose a $100,000 winner, to be announced on CBS during the Championship Game on April 2.



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."

He says that besides 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. "We also have a significant digital plan focusing on official athletic Web sites of competing colleges," he says. For instance, should Michigan State be nominated for a Game-Changing Performance, the school's athletic Web site will show a window that says "Hey Spartan fan, your team has been nominated, click here to vote."

Pontiac's Web presence at college, NCAA, sports and CBS sites includes an animated video of Gumbel, who begins speaking when one scrolls over him with a mouse.

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 airfare, 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 giveaway, and Pontiac's March sales event called Pontiac Upgrade, which allows buyers to upgrade vehicle features for free. One spot has a hypnotist entrancing referees for the Louisville game to tilt the game against Louisville. The other has a fan of Kansas driving the Torrent to the game, with voiceover saying that the back seat offers room for a bound-and-gagged Knight--whom you don't see, although the driver throws him a sandwich, with the message that one can upgrade seats to the Final Four.

"If you incorporate the digital elements, it's our biggest March Madness campaign to date," said 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.

The effort is via Leo Burnett, Pontiac's AOR, Digitas, and GM Planworks, which handled the media buy, including alignment with promotional Game-Changing Play updates on sites like YouTube.

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