Following the NCAA’s initiative to create more of a presence for its partners inside arenas, Capital One is running a free seat upgrade promotion at the Georgia Dome for the Final Four. Seat upgrades are pretty standard fare at most events, but that kind of promotional activity simply has not been permitted in the past by an ultra-conservative NCAA, which sought to keep tournament venues clean with next-to-no sponsor presence inside the arena. Powerade’s coolers were the only exception in camera-visible space. That began to change this year with NCAA corporate partners and champions being recognized on courtside rotational signage for the first time during the tournament, under the direction of new NCAA Exec VP/Championships & Alliances Mark Lewis. Capital One Brand Sponsorships Senior Dir Byron Daub said, “The seat upgrade is a nice way to get fans engaged. We’ve certainly been sensitive in the past to the NCAA’s desire for a clean venue, but they’ve done a nice job of increasing the brand presence this year in a tasteful way.” Daub said Capital One inquired about seat upgrade promotions in the past and executed some at other NCAA championship events, but this is the first time it has been given the OK at the Final Four. Capital One also ran the seat upgrade for the Division II and III basketball championships at Philips Arena, and will run it at the women’s championship at New Orleans Arena. Fans enter by tweeting their seat location to @capitalone with the hashtag #BestSeatInTheHouse. A winner and guest are selected at random. Capital One reps greet the winner at the old seats and escort them to new seats close to the court. Digital firm R/GA, N.Y., works with Capital One on aggregating the tweets and creating a digital strategy.
HOW’S IT GOING TO WORK: The promotion is supported with videoboard and PA mentions, starting at the first timeout of the first game. Seat cushions with Capital One marks and the hashtag are distributed throughout the Georgia Dome. Capital One hired Synergy to provide the cushions. Photos of the winners will be used in Capital One’s social media. Capital One’s in-venue promotion at the Final Four follows weeks of social media initiatives since Selection Sunday on March 17. Since then, Capital One has used a real-time scoreboard to chart tweets with a favorite school followed by the hashtag #RallyCry. Capital One then changes the color of its Twitter page to match the colors of the school with the most tweets. Capital One’s web-based ad buys also reflect the #RallyCry scoreboard. Daub: “Like every year, we go into March Madness with a comprehensive activation plan and we've certainly put more of a focus on social this year.” Capital One worked with Turner Events to activate at the NCAA’s two largest fan events in Atlanta -- the Big Dance and Bracket Town.