Cutting-Edge Marketing?

March 19, 2009

It’s time to tip-off the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament – one of the unique events with the ability to capture the attention of our country for three weeks each year (unlike the less-than-rabid group of Americans riveted by the World Baseball Classic). Not only does March Madness appeal to hardcore sports junkies, but it also engages a ton of people who haven’t seen a game all year and have no hope of pronouncing the name Krzyzewski.

That broad appeal is what entices marketers to spend millions of dollars during the tournament. And, while some official NCAA sponsors like General Motors are cutting back in a tough economy, we’ve seen plenty of new campaigns launched recently. For example:

  • M&Ms is featuring Magic Johnson and Larry Bird (along with his awesome feathered hairdo) as candy-coated characters to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1979 NCAA Championship – a game many credit with launching March Madness
  • Papa John’s is going the social media route with a Final Four sweepstakes and special offers for every consumer who becomes a fan of the company’s Facebook page during the tournament
  • A viral adidas campaign features some of the brand’s biggest stars, who went straight from high school to the NBA, talking about their admiration for the NCAA game and imagining about “what if” they had played in college.  Here’s Kevin Garnett in the UCLA locker room.

Sure, these programs are nice, but my favorite, by far, is truly “cutting-edge.” It’s Vas Madness – a marketing effort for a group of urologists promoting the NCAA Tournament as the ideal time to get a vasectomy and spend the mandatory two-day rest period away from work watching hoops. 

The good doctors offer the games on flat screen TVs in the waiting room and send you home with a recovery kit featuring frozen peas and frozen pizza. They did a little radio advertising on local sports stations, encouraging guys to “lower their seed for the tournament.” In addition, they have received an incredible amount of play in the media and blogosphere. Reports say they are overbooked with appointments.

Pretty clever. This promotion fits perfectly with our philosophy that big ideas trump big budgets when it comes to achieving marketplace momentum for a brand. We may need to send them a few ideas to take this campaign to a new level next year. I swear to you, they even have someone on staff named Dr. Richard Chopp. Imagine the possibilities –