SBD/February 14, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

NCAA Signs Unilever Partnership; State Farm Exits Corporate Partner Program

Unilever joins NCAA's corporate partner program ahead of men's NCAA tourney
Unilever is “in and State Farm is out of the NCAA’s corporate partner program in a flurry of activity a month before the start" of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, according to Michael Smith of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Unilever provides the NCAA “another giant consumer packaged goods company capable of giving the Final Four a strong promotional push." But the loss of State Farm, an NCAA partner since ’05, “comes as a shock, given the company’s deep investment in college sports.” State Farm Manager of National Sponsorships Todd Fischer said, “We made a strategic business decision not to renew. It was nothing specific. You’re constantly trying to put together the best mix to go to market with and we’re very proud of our programs and partnerships over the years. We certainly have no regrets.” Sources said that State Farm “walked away because of rate increases by Turner and CBS.” Those increases “were tied to the expanded coverage of the NCAA’s basketball tournament.” Meanwhile, Smith reports the NCAA is “on the verge of bringing back General Motors, this time as a corporate partner.” GM had been a corporate champion, the NCAA’s “highest level of sponsorship, before breaking off the deal” in ’09 (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/14 issue).

NOT MUCH MORE TO AD: In this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, John Ourand reports ad sales for the NCAA tournament are “virtually sold out across the CBS and Turner Sports networks more than a month before the event is set to start.” CBS and Turner execs also noted that ads for the “popular online service March Madness on Demand are virtually sold out.” By comparison, CBS for the past two years “went into March with the tournament 90 percent sold.” CBS Sports Exec VP/Sales & Marketing John Bogusz said, “Business has been really good” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/14 issue).
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