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Volume 21 No. 1
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Allstate getting hands on NCAA partnership

Insurer will launch 'March Mayhem'

Allstate has designs on turning March Madness into March Mayhem.

The insurance giant, a prominent player in college football over the years, has signed a multiyear contract to become an NCAA corporate partner, effective immediately.

The deal, brokered by the NCAA’s rights holders, Turner Sports and CBS Sports, gives Allstate full marketing, promotional and advertising rights to the upcoming NCAA tournament and fills the highly competitive insurance category.

“Given where we stand in the college sports world, this is a natural,” said Pam Hollander, Allstate’s senior director of sponsorship marketing. “This certainly deepens our very unique position in college sports and gives us relationships with the crème de la crème of events in this space.”

An announcement on Allstate’s partnership is expected this week. Financial terms of the deal were not available, but NCAA corporate sponsorships have been increasing in cost since the NCAA’s new 14-year, $11 billion contract with Turner and CBS kicked in a little more than a year ago.

Corporate partnerships are believed to cost $10 million to $15 million a year now — typically over three years, industry sources say — with heavy TV and digital media on Turner’s networks and CBS added in.

IMG handles sponsorship strategy for Allstate and was involved in the discussions on this deal.

Mark LaNeve, Allstate’s former chief marketer who resigned last week, was a proponent of the sponsorship and championed the deal until his departure, sources said. The contract already was signed before LaNeve, a former General Motors executive, announced his resignation on Feb. 27. The change is not expected to have any bearing on the NCAA deal going forward.

Other activation opportunities, such as a presence in Bracket Town, the on-site fan fest at the Final Four, costs an additional $250,000 to $350,000, depending on how much space the sponsor requires.

Allstate officials said the company will have a display area inside Bracket Town in New Orleans from March 28 through April 2 at the Final Four.

They will use that time to launch a college sports-themed giveaway with a prize package that includes a trip for two to the 2013 Final Four as well as the 2013 BCS championship game. Allstate, title sponsor of the Sugar Bowl, also has BCS marketing rights.

The company’s marketing department staffers know their way around the Big Easy. Many of them were in New Orleans for two weeks during the Sugar Bowl and the BCS championship game.

Allstate handles its own on-site marketing for those football games, and it remains to be seen if it will be able to recreate any of those activations for the Final Four.

“It’s like building an airplane while it’s taking off,” Hollander said of the quick turnaround between the deal’s conclusion and March Madness. “We certainly plan to show up and take advantage of every aspect of the relationship to make it as fun and engaging as it can be for fans and for our agents.”

'Mayhem' will feature actor Dean Winters.
Allstate’s creative for March Madness is still in the works with its ad agency, Leo Burnett, but its “Mayhem” campaign will figure prominently. With just a slight twist, “Mayhem” will become “March Mayhem” and play perfectly into the March Madness theme around the tournament.

“Mayhem,” which launched in 2010, stars villainous actor Dean Winters portraying the mayhem that can strike car owners.

Winters’ character already has been worked into Allstate print ads that will appear in the NCAA tournament programs, and TV creative will feature Mayhem as well.

Leo Burnett is thought to be working on multiple basketball-themed spots that will run during the tournament.

Before Allstate came along, State Farm had been the NCAA’s official insurance partner since 2005, but relinquished those rights last year, leaving the category without a sponsor.

That vacancy didn’t last long. Industry sources said there was immediate interest from Allstate last summer, and discussions with Turner and CBS progressed over the course of the year and into early 2012.

The deal grants Allstate marketing rights to all of the NCAA’s 89 championships. Among the championships that typically receive the most activation focus from NCAA partners are baseball, hockey and lacrosse.

The NCAA partnership will fit nicely into Allstate’s portfolio of college assets. In addition to the Sugar Bowl title sponsorship, its “Good Hands” field goal nets program has successfully integrated Allstate into the college football game from the regular season through the postseason since 2005.

Allstate now has 71 college relationships through the nets program. The company also has a relationship with the American Football Coaches Association, through which it sponsors the Good Works Team.

Outside of the college space, Allstate is the official insurance for the U.S. Olympic Committee and MLS.

The heavy sports spending comes as Allstate competes with State Farm in a hyper-competitive category, as Allstate currently ranks second to State Farm in market share.