Tuesday
Feb262013

Buffalo Wild Wings In March Madness Mood As Official Partner Of NCAA Tournament

By Barry Janoff

February 26, 2013: Buffalo Wild Wings, entering its first season as an official marketing partner of the NCAA, is launching a full-court press marketing campaign aimed at March Madness and the upcoming men's and women's Div. 1 basketball tournaments.

The effort is anchored by TV commercials and a social media element, in conjunction with Coca-Cola Zero, featuring a "Big Shot Challenge" contest offering a trip to the 2014 men's Final Four, which will be held in Arlington, Texas.

This year's men's Final Four will be played April 6 and April 8 in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The women's Final Four will be played April 7 and April 9 in the New Orleans Arena.

The campaign supports Buffalo Wild Wings' claim that March Madness is its second busiest time of year, behind the Super Bowl. In a nod to previous campaigns, the two spots show Buffalo Wild Wings staffers going to unusual lengths to extend games so that customers can extend their stay.

According to the Minneapolis-based casual dining chain, customers "ate nearly 70 million traditional and boneless wings" during the 2012 NCAA basketball men's and women's tournaments.

Buffalo Wild Wings' deal with the NCAA, signed last month, designates it as the "official hangout of March Madness,” and includes marketing, media and activation rights related to all 89 NCAA championships through 2016.

“There’s just so much energy around the NCAA Tournament,” Kathy Benning, Buffalo Wild Wings evp-global brand and business development, said in a statement. “We love that we’ve become the destination for fans across the country to share in that excitement. With our social atmosphere and every game on our wall-to-wall flat screen TVs, Buffalo Wild Wings is the closest thing to the action on the court.”

In addition to the TV spots, the new campaign includes social media such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook; and an online and mobile pop-a-shot game that "uses a new augmented reality technology that enhances the game when played in our restaurants," according to Buffalo Wild Wings.

The app is part of a contest, running now through April 8, in which people earn points each time they play either online or via their mobile device. Each week, players with the top 50 scores will earn a $25 Buffalo Wild Wings gift card. The player with the most points at the end of the promotional period earns the trip next year to Arlington. (Full details here.) 

The "Big Shot Challenge" destination also includes a March Madness "bracketology" element that goes live and will be updated after Selection Sunday on March 17, when the 68 schools will be selected for the upcoming men's tournament. The Tournament begins March 19-20 with the NCAA First Four.

In "Expanded," a couple watching basketball at Buffalo Wild Wings get their wish of a longer tournament when a restaurant employee pushes a "Twilight Zone' type remote and a TV  sportscaster exclaims, "This just in . . .  the Tournament has been expanded to 256 teams. What does this mean!!?"

In the commercial, it means that the Fighting Snails, a team that barely seems to know what a basketball is, is now in the Big Dance. (See the full spot here.)

Editor's Note: In real life, the University of West Florida (Pensacola) official mascot is the Argonaut, but the team is affectionally called the "Fighting Snails"  by students. The UWF men's hoops team plays in the Gulf Coast Conference in Div. II.

The second spot, 'Slo-Mo," customers who want games to last longer suddenly find that everything is played in slow motion, including fast breaks and eatting chicken wings. (See the full spot here.)

“We’re always looking for new ways to bring that sports experience to life in our restaurants,” Benning said. “This year, it was our TV spots that seemed to come to life during games, most notably during the biggest football game of the year, and our passionate fans were quick to point out the coincidence. Our new TV spots are the next evolution of that concept, and they are a key element of an overall campaign that we hope will entertain our Guests and create a great March Madness experience in our restaurants.”

Buffalo Wild Wings' competitor, Hooters, this week also launched a campaign in anticipation of March Madness. Hooters is not an official NCAA partner and, as such, is not allowed to use such NCAA trademarked terms as Final Four, Selection Sunday, Big Dance or March Madness.

Buffalo Wild Wings Scores NCAA, March Madness Deal

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