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Volume 24 No. 200
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Sources: Coke Upset Grant Hill Is In New Mtn Dew Tourney Ad

CBS, Turner and longtime NCAA sponsor Coca-Cola are upset, sources said, about a new campaign from rival Mtn Dew that features Grant Hill and takes shots at the NCAA's trademarks around "March Madness." Hill is one of the leading analysts on March Madness broadcasts. The problem is that Mtn Dew’s NCAA Tournament-themed spot stars Hill, who will call the Final Four and other tournament games alongside Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson. That a CBS/Turner talent is endorsing a rival brand is not going over well inside Coke’s Atlanta HQ, sources said. Coke has been an NCAA corporate champion since '02 and spends in the neighborhood of $30M annually across multiple categories for NCAA rights. CBS and Turner manage the NCAA’s marketing and sponsorship program, in addition to the TV and digital broadcasts. Sources said the networks were not aware that Hill signed an endorsement deal with Mtn Dew until recently. Individual deals, even those with CBS/Turner talent, are negotiated separately by brands, whether they are NCAA partners or not, so it is not certain that Hill broke any rules by aligning with Mtn Dew. But his deal clearly has rankled those around the partner program, especially since Mtn Dew has no NCAA rights.

TALK AIN'T CHEAP: Mtn Dew’s “Beat the Buzzer” spot, which is produced by Motive, Denver, shows Hill at a news desk reporting on the “Beat the Buzzer” promotion that gives away branded gear every 60 minutes. In it, Hill says, “Sweet 16,” “Final Four,” “March Madness” and other tournament-related words that are associated with NCAA marks. When Hill says one of those phrases, a buzzer sounds and a voice off camera says, “Can’t say that, Grant. Lawyers won’t let us.” Each subsequent reference to one of those protected phrases earns another buzzer and a Mtn Dew logo across Hill’s mouth. Hill acts frustrated throughout the spot for his inability to say the terms. Hill has endorsed NCAA corporate partners in the past, like Pizza Hut last year. The use of CBS/Turner talent, such as Kenny Smith and Seth Davis in Burger King's NCAA-themed commercial, has been a key selling point for the networks. It is believed that Hill cut the endorsement deal over NBA All-Star Weekend in L.A., where he was broadcasting for Turner, and where Mtn Dew had heavy activation through its NBA sponsorship. CAA, which reps Hill for endorsements, cut the deal with Mtn Dew.