SBJ/March 5-11, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Infiniti draws on interviews with 48 coaches for March Madness promotion

Infiniti is working with an unprecedented number of college basketball coaches to promote its new “Round by Round” bracket challenge during March Madness.

Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, North Carolina’s Roy Williams, Kentucky’s John Calipari, Kansas’ Bill Self, Baylor’s Scott Drew and Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan are among the 48 coaches who conducted interviews for Infiniti, which is using the video in spots to plug the automaker’s digital activation.

That’s the most coaches an NCAA sponsor has ever put to work in a campaign, said Fishbait Marketing’s Rick Jones, who serves as the marketing director for the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

The coaches are not compensated for the spots. They volunteer their time, typically 30 minutes or so, because Infiniti is donating money to the NABC’s charity, Coaches vs. Cancer. Most of Infiniti’s interviews with the coaches were conducted last July at a high school basketball camp in Las Vegas that most top recruits attend.

The video is used in spots ranging from 30 seconds to two minutes on a variety of digital platforms, including CBSSports.com and AOL, to talk about Coaches vs. Cancer. They also encourage viewers to visit the new Infiniti “Round by Round” bracket challenge, which will launch in the coming weeks with the start of the NCAA tournament.

Infiniti has pledged a minimum of $100,000 to a maximum of $700,000 to Coaches vs. Cancer, based on participation in the “Round by Round.”

Infiniti, in its second year as an NCAA corporate partner, used 16 coaches last year and found them so effective as authentic pitchmen that it tripled the number this year.

“The feedback we got from coaches last year was that they really liked it and they actually encouraged us to expand it,” said Jim DeTrude, Infiniti’s marketing director. “So that’s what we did.”

Many of the coaches, plus CBS talent Greg Anthony and Seth Davis and Turner’s Ernie Johnson, also will be posting on Twitter to promote the contest.

OMD’s Los Angeles office handles media strategy for Infiniti, which also uses Los Angeles-based TBWA/Chiat/Day as its ad agency.

The online component is part of a much deeper and broader activation this year for Infiniti, which joined the NCAA’s list of corporate partners two months before last year’s NCAA tournament.

For the first time, Infiniti will have on-site activation at the Final Four. It will sponsor the Tailgate Tipoff at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, where it will display its new luxury crossover vehicle, the JX. It also will host thousands of Infiniti owners and prospective buyers at the Superdome’s Club 44, which will be rebranded the Infiniti Lounge during the Final Four.

“We’re much deeper in our integration this year,” DeTrude said. “In year one, we were there as a media-only partner. So we’ve taken that next step and really grown the partnership in the number of coaches we use, our digital presence, our on-site presence and what we’re doing in the social space. It’s a much deeper engagement with the fan at every level of how they experience the tournament.”

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