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MARCH MADNESS A HAVEN FOR NON-NCAA PARTNERS TO AMBUSH?
Published March 8, 2000
NCAA sponsors "are gearing up for March Madness," but an "incalculable number of marketers" are running promos around the upcoming tournament "without paying rights fees," according to Terry Lefton of BRANDWEEK, who calls the NCAA tournament "the most-assaulted big sports event." He notes that campaigns by Nike, E-Trade, General Mills, Playboy.com and Samuel Adams are all examples of companies running March Madness promos without being sanctioned by the NCAA. Nelligan Sports Marketing's T.J. Nelligan, a former sales exec at NCAA sponsorship agency Host Communications: "More brands are attaching themselves to [the tournament] every year, because there is nothing like the Final Four as far as affinity across a wide demographic." Among official NCAA sponsors running March Madness promos are second-year sponsor Nabisco, with its special edition "Munch Madness" cookie, and Sears, which will distribute 22,000 seat cushions at the NCAA Women's Final Four in Philadelphia. But telecom sponsor GTE, "in the throes of a name change after merging with Bell Atlantic, has bowed out of its seat cushion promo at the men's Final Four" (BRANDWEEK, 3/6). NCAA MARKET NOTES: Lefton also reports that the SEC has signed Cadbury Schweppes' Dr Pepper brand to a $500,000 presenting sponsorship for the SEC's eleven-game basketball tournament this week in Atlanta. The deal includes three spots per game, soft-drink exclusivity, bumpers and scoreboard IDs. In addition, Compaq "is expected to end its NCAA sponsorship sometime after the Final Four." Compaq has been an NCAA partner since '97 (BRANDWEEK, 3/6 issue). The SEC and marketing partner Host Communications also signed Atlanta-based WORLDSPAN to its SEC Corporate Partner Program, making the computer reservation company for the travel industry the SEC's exclusive electronic travel distributor. The deal gives WORLDSPAN presence at all 20 conference championship events (SEC)....IA-based telecom company McLeod USA has signed a one-year deal to become an Official Corporate Partner of the Mountain West Conference (MWC). McLeod receives title sponsorship of the women's basketball tournament and sponsorship of the conference's Web site and all MWC sports (MWC).