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Volume 20 No. 45
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Pizza Hut, Wendy’s activate with digital, social

Pizza Hut and Wendy’s are both first-year NCAA corporate partners, but the brands are not necessarily new to March Madness or college basketball.

Pizza Hut in the 1980s was one of the first sponsors to buy into the NCAA’s new corporate partner program, and its NCAA-branded mini-basketballs remain one of the association’s most successful promotions.

But in a sign of how much marketing has changed in the 30 years since it was an NCAA partner, Pizza Hut’s activation for this March Madness will focus on its digital ordering methods. Turner Sports analyst Grant Hill appears in Pizza Hut’s creative talking about the ways in which fans can easily place orders.

Pizza Hut works with Droga5 for advertising and Zeno Group for public relations.

Wendy’s, which has been working on its NCAA tournament activation for the last six months, kicks off a social media road trip this week that will culminate in Phoenix at the Final Four. Kurt Kane, Wendy’s chief concept and marketing officer, said the brand has hired three social media ambassadors to chronicle their trip from New York, site of the Selection Show, to Phoenix.

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas also has been brought on to add heft to Wendy’s March Madness digital presence. Through a relationship with Twitter, Wendy’s also will have a bracket challenge that enables fans to reset their brackets after the opening weekend.

Wendy’s will run its “Fresh not frozen” ad campaign on the CBS and Turner telecasts.

“We don’t think enough people know that our beef is never frozen, so this is part of our effort to put the brand on bigger stages” like the Super Bowl and the NCAA, Kane said.

At the Final Four, Wendy’s plans to roll in food trucks for sampling at the Tip-off Tailgate at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Wendy’s worked with Mediavest on the buy and VML on the creative. The Marketing Arm is Wendy’s experiential agency, Ketchum handles public relations and Saatchi is the merchandise agency.

Other March Madness activations:

Coca-Cola for the first time is introducing commemorative “Share a Coke” team sodas in 8-ounce glass bottles. The bottles will have team logos, nicknames and battle cries for more than 50 schools. The limited-edition bottles are available on through April 14 and can be ordered in Coca-Cola, Coke Zero and Diet Coke. Fans also have the option of ordering bottles with March Madness, The Big Dance, Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight and Final Four branding.

Hershey has extended its deal for five more years. As the NCAA’s official confectionery partner, Hershey will continue to market its Reese’s brand on its NCAA advertising. Hershey first became an NCAA sponsor in 2009, and this marks the second time the company has extended its deal. Central to the relationship is the Reese’s College All-Star Game and its sponsorship of Reese’s Final Four Friday.