By Barry Janoff
March 17, 2015: Charles Barkley is back in his recurring role as the IT department executive who works for fictional company Gordon & Taylor in a series of humorous commercials for real company CDW Corp. that will break during March Madness.
The latest iteration of CDW's "People Who Get IT" campaign finds Barkley and his IT unit with some new members, among them Scottie Pippen and Rick Mahorn, who during their respective illustrious careers in the NBA were teammates with Barkley on the Phoenix Suns (1992-96) and Philadelphia 76ers (1989-91), respectively.
It also offers up Barkley's faux line of signature products, including Barkley 34 cologne ("Smells like a locker room") and The Round Mound of Rebound Pound Cake Mix (a reference to one of Barkley's nicknames).
Since Barkley's arrival in 2012 marketing efforts, Gordon & Taylor "has won at basketball, won new business by losing at golf, won on the road with its mobile office and won despite having a football stadium without a team," according to CDW.
Barkley, who is working the NCAA Tournament as a commentator and analyst for CBS and Turner, also stars in a new campaign for Capital One alongside Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson.
The CDW campaign highlights how the Vernon Hiils, Ill.-based provider of tech solutions "works for small, medium and large business, government, education and healthcare customers," a strategy that in 2014 generated $12 billion in net sales.
Exposure during the NCAA Tournament is beneficial for CDW, according to Neal Campbell, the company's svp/CMO.
“CDW provides our customers with the technology solutions and expertise they need to achieve their goals,” Campbell said in a statement. “Featuring Barkley in our ads, and expanding our roster this year to include Scottie Pippen and Rick Mahorn, enables us to tell our story in an entertaining way that matches the excitement of March Madness, while also highlighting our partners’ key IT offerings.”
Among the tech solutions that CDW brings to the March Madness effort are Lenovo's ThinkPad Helix 2-in-1 devices with Intel Core M vPro Processors, HP EliteBooks with Intel Core M Processors, HP ProLiant servers with Intel Xeon processors and VMware technology to move critical applications to the cloud.
The campaign will hit TV, radio, print, Internet and social media. Lead agency is Oglivy & Mather, Chicago.
During March Madness this year, companies are anticipated to spend at or above $1.2 billion to reach fans and consumers across CBS and Turner Broadcasting networks TBS, TNT and truTV, which would top the record $1.14 billion spent last year, according to marketing, research and consulting firm Kantar Media, New York.
Thirty-second spots during the Final Four on TBS (April 4) and the title game on CBS (April 6) could also set a record, topping the $1.5 million for a 30-second spot during the 2014 title game between winner University of Connecticut and Kentucky.
Pippen and Ceballos appear in "Teammates," which finds the IT department hiring new employees who are "winners." (Last year, CDW brought in former NFL and Boston College QB Doug Flutie.)
In "New Ideas," Barkley tries to get his CEO at Gordon & Taylor to invest in his own line of products, including a dating app called Reboundr, kitchen cooking device Stir Charles and the aforementioned Barkley 34 and The Round Mound of Rebound Pound Cake Mix.
"Sprinklers" finds Gordon & Taylor's CEO christening the new data center with champagne, with bad results that are saved by CDW’s implementation of VMware technology.
"Overspending" shows how CDW can make Gordon & Taylor's workforce quite efficient despite frivolous spending by company leaders.
This marks CDW's second major sports-related activation of the year. The company is the official technology partner for the NFL's Arizona Cardinals and the team's home venue, the University of Phoenix Stadium, which in February hosted Super Bowl XLIX.
Prior to the Big Game, CDW implemented a multi-million dollar Cisco-based high-density wireless network to improve connectivity speeds and security, and also brought Internet access to the parking lot and other areas outside the stadium.