Posted by Dale Buss on March 17, 2011 11:00 AM
One of the many mistakes that General Motors made over the last several years was letting Pontiac have the franchise for NCAA March Madness. Pontiac’s annual sponsorship of the men’s basketball tournament was the brand’s high-water mark each year — but it couldn’t save the venerable youth-oriented marque from the salvage yard of automotive history.
Buick probably would have been a better match for the tourney sponsorship from the start, as GM’s near-luxury brand has always targeted the young, affluent demographic that happens to be provided by March Madness. It’s a much better fit for driving down the age of Buick buyers than was its partnership with the PGA golf tour – which ended in 2009 before Tiger Woods’ meltdown.
Finally, the error is being rectified.
Buick has become one of just two official automotive sponsors of March Madness; Infiniti is the other one. The berth isn’t as big for Buick as it was for Pontiac when GM was an “official corporate champion” of the tournament and Pontiac took the lead. But it’s a three-year deal for Buick that also includes sponsorship of the NCAA’s Frozen Four hockey tournament and other events.
For Buick brand executives, it’s an exciting opportunity that also includes original content (see above) on NCAA's website and a pro-social element:
“One thing we wanted to do was have a large stage for the Buick brand, to build scale and generate mass, and at certain parts of the year,” Craig Bierly, marketing director for Buick, told brandchannel. “And the NCAAs are a great audience."
“This isn’t a youth play,” he added. “We’re pursuing the alumni audience more than those currently in school.”
Besides being desirable demographically, he said, March Madness watchers tend to act upon what they see. NCAA tourney watchers demonstrate a very high level of “engagement” with advertisements, as well as the games.
“They’re 17% more likely to buy a car than the viewers of other sports programming,” Bierly said. “The more engaged viewers are in programming, the more likely they are to respond to your message.”