By Barry Janoff
March 18, 2014: AT&T is all in for the 2014 Div. I Men's Basketball Tournament, and not just because the telecommunications firm is an official corporate champion of the NCAA and the exclusive wireless partner of the NCAA and Final Four.
For the first time, a corporate partner will also have its name on the marquee of the venue where the Final Four will be played. The two semi-final games and the championship game are in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, North Texas, home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys.
That certainly has gotten the attention of Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, who will be one of the stars of AT&T's March Madness campaign activities.
Cuban is featured in one of the TV spots that AT&T will air throughout the month, "Cuban & Legends," which also stars former NCAA and NBA players David Robinson, Dikembe Mutombo and Michael Finley. It supports U-Verse, which enables customers to watch live TV on their mobile devices from anywhere in their home.
The spot will run concurrently with commercials under the theme "Nothing But Network," with the AT&T "network guys" Frank and Charlie. In "Office," the pair fine-tune the AT&T network "so it's ready when and where employees need it." In "Rock Band," Frank and Charlie are at a concert enhancing the AT&T network so so that fans can post and upload when show starts.
AT&T's platform also includes print and digital; NCAA Courtside presented by AT&T, which provides behind-the-scenes images and video in real time via Twitter and other social platforms; and as co-presenting sponsor of the NCAA March Madness Live app, giving people portable access to more than 150 hours of live streaming on Windows and Android.
Last year, AT&T spent some $70 million to activate in and around March Madness, second only to the $80.7 million spent by General Motors, according to marketing and research firm Kantar Media, NY.
AT&T plans to have a multitude of activations on the ground in and around Dallas, where the company is headquartered, leading to and then during Final Four Weekend, April 5-7.
AT&T received more than $16 million in media value via on-air branding and its related platforms during the 2013 tournament, according to Kantar.
That figure will go up this year via the built-in mega-marketing device of AT&T Stadium, for which the firm acquired naming rights last July in a deal with Cowboys and stadium majority owner Jerry Jones, The value of the pact was put at upward of $19 million annually over the next ten years by industry analysts.
Among AT&T's plans are experiential outdoor ads such as interactive store fronts, building projections and a “3D spectacular"; the AT&T Block Party as part of the NCAA March Madness Music Festival; an AT&T Mobile Lounge and AT&T Fan Zone at Bracket Town, where fans will have the opportunity to meet current NCAA coaches and other basketball legends.
AT&T will also sponsor a 360-degree camera during the Late Night with Conan O’Brien show, which airs on March Madness network TBS, being broadcast from Dallas March 31-April 3. According to AT&T, the “Team Coco” app allows people to “get in the director’s chair” to choose what camera angles they want to view from their wireless devices during the show’s Dallas stay.
In "NCAA Cuban & Legends," Cuban hosts a bevy of former players who come to his house to watch March Madness. Robinson arrives first, followed by Mutombo and Finley.
Fortunately for Cuban, he has AT&T's U-Verse, which enables him to continue to watch hoops action on his mobile device as he continually runs from the living room to the front door to let people in. (See the full spot here.)
According to AT&T, the "It's Not Complicated" campaign featuring kids who appear to answer questions off-the-cuff, and which had new creative during March Madness last year, is on hiatus but still in play.
NCAA corporate champions are AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola. NCAA marketing partners include Allstate, Buffalo Wild Wings, Buick, Burger King, Enterprise, Infiniti, LG, Lowe's, Nabisco, Northwest Mutual, Reese's, Unilever and UPS.
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