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Capital One Gets 'Medieval' With March Madness Marketing

March 15, 2010: Capital One did not waste any time flexing its muscles as the newest Corporate Champion of the NCAA, unveiling a campaign supporting the Division I Men's Basketball tournament that will begin this week. The banking and investment firm has been an official supporter of NCAA football, including title sponsorship of the Capital One Bowl and an annual event seeking the best college mascot.

The move to Corporate Champion puts Capital One in an elite class alongside Coca-Cola and AT&T. The formal expansion into NCAA basketball supports the company's Venture rewards credit card and is anchored by a campaign featuring the fictitious West Eastern State, led by the equally fictitious Ivan Brothers.

In a series of TV spots that will run throughout the basketball tournament, viewers are taken through the history of the brothers, who were discovered during a scouting trip by "head coach Don Holton." The coach was spurred on by a 65-game losing streak to use the travel miles earned on his Venture card "to comb the edges of the earth to find new talent." His journey takes him and his assistant coach deep into the woods of an unknown European country, where he discovers 7' 8" Big Ivan and 7' 2" Little Ivan. The coach finds they can "pass and shoot the rock'" - literally, by tossing heavy stones around. The also seem to have migrated over from a series of Capital One "What's in Your Wallet?" commercials featuring the same type of Viking warriors in modern-day situations.

One spot has actual NCAA coaches, including Jim Boeheim of Syracuse University, Tom Izzo of Michigan State and Roy Williams of North Carolina, describing the on-court presence of the Ivan Brothers, who play in Viking helmets and boots, in such terms as being "scary good." Danny Manning, an assistant coach at Kansas, offers, "It's hard to defend guys who are used to storming castles." The Brothers are still learning the game, as in a clip where one of them attempts to block a free throw attempt and in another where Big Ivan cuts down the basketball net with a hatchet. But they also are shown in class, where they quickly become brilliant students.

Although spots will continue to run through the 2010 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball tournament, where in the ads West Eastern State was seeded No. 15, the Brothers seem to have vanished, apparently leaving the team to move on without them and coach Holton stuck with "questions that have no answers." No one would confirm, though, that the Ivans have permanently disappeared.

Support includes a dedicated section on YouTube. Fan clubs for the Ivans also have sprouted at colleges nationwide. Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners is lead agency for the majority of marketing for Capital One.

The Venture Card from Capital One is a rewards credit card that offers double miles on every purchase, which can be used for airfare, cruise tickets, hotel stays, or rental cars from any Web site or travel agency.

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