SBD/November 26, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Spread The Madness: Northwestern Mutual Bringing Brackets To More College Sports

The winner of the bracket challenge will get $500 to spend at the NCAA's online store
Northwestern Mutual is taking the brackets that are so often associated with college basketball's March Madness to other NCAA championships. The insurance and financial planner, which became an NCAA corporate partner earlier this year, advertised heavily throughout the year on CBS, Turner and ESPN, but its new bracket challenge for many of the NCAA's Olympic sports represents the company's first promotion. It also marks the first time that an NCAA partner has marketed against the brackets from a non-basketball championship. Northwestern today launched a bracket challenge for the NCAA's volleyball tournaments, and participants will have three days to fill out their brackets at Northwestern's Facebook page and submit them. The winner will receive a $500 gift card to spend at the NCAA's online store ShopNCAASports.com. Northwestern will repeat the brackets challenge for NCAA tournaments in ice hockey, softball, baseball and lacrosse. Northwestern Dir of Brand & Advertising Chad Dern said the company will look at adding women's soccer for next fall. "This really represents an expanding of our offering and something of an experiment in some different areas," Dern said.

GOING IN WITH OLYMPIC SPORTS: While many NCAA partners often talk about activating more heavily against the NCAA's Olympic sports championships, few of them have made significant bets in sports that do not enjoy the visibility of the basketball tournament. "You don't see a lot of partners activating in this sort of way across a lot of the other championships," said Dern, who saw advantages to a program that does not compete with all of the March Madness clutter. Northwestern will still have a strong presence in basketball, but this program gives the company more of an around-the-calendar activation. "We'll see how it goes," Dern said. "It certainly adds a new spin to the brackets challenge, so we'll see how well it moves people over to our Facebook page." Northwestern, which is handling the promotion in-house, will use the challenge as a way to engage clients and prospects on its Facebook page by evaluating the risk associated with their brackets. "And that opens the door to talk to people about how risk tolerance plays into financial planning," Dern said.
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