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Volume 21 No. 34
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Dew dances around NCAA rights

Coca-Cola, a longtime NCAA corporate champion, can’t be happy about the new “Beat the Buzzer” spot from rival soda Mountain Dew that features Grant Hill, one of the lead March Madness analysts on CBS/Turner.


The campaign shows Hill at a news desk reporting on Mountain Dew’s “Beat the Buzzer” promotion that gives away branded gear every 60 minutes. But what makes the union between Hill and Mountain Dew so compelling is that Hill is part of the lead CBS/Turner broadcast team with Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson that will announce the Final Four and other NCAA tournament games.

CBS/Turner manage the NCAA’s marketing and sponsorship program, in addition to the TV and digital broadcasts.

Coca-Cola is the NCAA’s longtime corporate champion and has owned the soda category since the early 2000s, spending close to $30 million annually for those marketing rights now. But individual endorsement deals, even those with CBS/Turner talent, are negotiated separately.

Mountain Dew, which has no NCAA rights, still was able to strike an endorsement deal with Hill as a way of creating an association with college basketball and the tournament, while also having a little fun with it.

CBS/Turner analyst Grant Hill is featured in Mountain Dew’s “Beat the Buzzer” campaign.

Every time Hill says, “Sweet 16,” “Final Four,” “March Madness” or other tournament-related words in the spot, 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 Mountain Dew logo across Hill’s mouth.

Denver-based Motive, which has a long-standing relationship with Mountain Dew, is the ad agency behind “Beat the Buzzer.”

Hill, a former Duke star and 19-year pro, has endorsed NCAA corporate partners in the past, like Pizza Hut last year. Using CBS/Turner talent, such as Kenny Smith and Seth Davis in a Burger King NCAA-themed commercial, has been a key selling point for the networks.

But to have one of its analysts starring in an ad for an NCAA sponsor’s rival is new ground.

In other NCAA-related sponsor news:

Powerade, the NCAA’s official isotonic beverage, this week will launch a new campaign called “That’s some kind of power,” including digital and social media extensions, retail, TV and a large presence at the NCAA’s fan fest in San Antonio at the Final Four.

Those activation elements will continue through March Madness to Jam Fest at the McDonald’s All-American Game and the FIFA World Cup, according to senior brand manager Jason McAlpin.

Coca-Cola’s Powerade brand has been on the sideline as an NCAA partner with TV-visible squeeze bottles, cups and coolers since 2011.

The NCAA’s new relationship with Google Cloud has two elements. The NCAA is a Google Cloud client, using the cloud to store all sorts of data from past tournaments, including play-by-play and statistics. Separate from that is the marketing relationship Google Cloud has as an NCAA partner.

Will Funk and Chris Simko, who jointly oversee the NCAA’s partner program, said Google Cloud will transform the way data and analytics are managed. The NCAA previously used a non-cloud system for data storage, but going to Google Cloud will create “a richer analysis of 80 years’ worth of tournament data,” Simko said.

Funk said Google Cloud’s integration into the CBS/Turner broadcast “will bring tournament data to life in ways consumers haven’t seen before.”