SBJ/January 21-27, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

Buffalo Wild Wings becomes NCAA partner

March is one of the busiest months of the year for Buffalo Wild Wings, and through a deal to become an NCAA corporate partner the dining chain will be producing its own version of March Madness.

The Minneapolis-based company has agreed to a multiyear deal that will make it one of 15 corporate partners for the NCAA’s growing sponsorship program. Corporate partner deals with the NCAA typically go for the high seven figures to eight figures annually. Buffalo Wild Wings will occupy the casual dining category.

The dining chain wants to be the viewing party destination for March Madness.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Three of the NCAA’s 15 partners — AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola — are corporate champions, the highest level, while the other 12 reside at the partner level.

The NCAA’s rights holders, Turner and CBS, have been working on the deal with Buffalo Wild Wings since last year, industry sources say.

This figures to be the busiest year for Turner and CBS since they jointly signed the 14-year, $11 billion contract with the NCAA three years ago. Half or more of the partners and
champions are in a renewal year in 2013, industry sources said. Among those whose deals will expire after the 2013 tournament are believed to be Coca-Cola, Capital One, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Hershey, Kraft, Lowe’s, Unilever and UPS.

But some progress has already been made. Enterprise has renewed its NCAA deal, according to Patrick Farrell, chief marketing officer for Enterprise Holdings. The company did a multiyear extension that continues to deliver a full complement of media and promotional rights to the NCAA’s 89 championships.

Meanwhile, industry sources indicate that Coca-Cola also has agreed to extend its relationship as an NCAA corporate champion.

Buffalo Wild Wings will use its NCAA partnership to broaden efforts to become the viewing party destination for March Madness, just as it did in football throughout the bowl season. It title sponsors the bowl game in Tempe, Ariz.

Its move to become a partner is a logical next step, given that the restaurant has been one of the most active advertisers on CBS’s and Turner’s NCAA tournament coverage. Along with its ad agency, Fallon, Buffalo Wild Wings rolled out a campaign in 2012 called “More March.” Those three 30-second spots asked restaurant guests what they would trade for more of basketball’s craziest month.

Buffalo Wild Wings’ advertising spend on March Madness in the past was substantial enough that most industry experts thought it would be a relatively small step up to the partner level.

The company works with several agencies in addition to Fallon. New York-based Horizon Media does BWW’s media buying, and Horizon’s affiliate agency, Scout Sports & Entertainment, works on consulting.

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