By Barry Janoff
March 7, 2012: Tapping into what might be one of the top two online sports viewerships of the year, Unilever brand Dove Men+Care plans one of the biggest social media pushes in NCAA men's basketball tournament history.
Dove Men+Care "Journey to Comfort" will include Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Amazon and Viggle. The campaign also features a series of March Madness TV spots, all anchored by new deals with former NBA star and current TV analyst Shaquille O'Neal, two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash and Michigan State University head basketball coach Tom Izzo.
Comparing 2011 against 2010, CBS and Turner reported a 63% increase in total digital visits and a 17% increase in total hours of streamed video, according to marketing research firm Kantar Media, New York. In 2011, advertisiers spend $738 million during the NCAA men's hoops tournament, second only to the $900 million spent during Super Bowl XLV in February 2011.
Analysts predict that the 2012 Summer Olympics in London might be the only sports event to surpass 2012 March Madness in online viewership.
Unilever is in the second season of a multi-year deal as an official "corporate champion" of the NCAA.
The Dove Men+Care “Journey to Comfort” campaign during the NCAA men's basketball Division I tournament will see O'Neal, Nash and Izzo share personal experiences that have helped them "become comfortable in their own skin." The campaign is breaking this week at Dove's Web site and dedicated Facebook and YouTube destinations.
It will expand beginning on March 11, aka "Selection Sunday," when the teams and brackets for the 2012 NCAA tournament will be unveiled.
Throughout the tournament, Dove Men+Care will air a series of TV spots with O'Neal, Nash and Izzo on the networks covering March Madness: CBS and Turner Network's TBS, TNT and TruTV, as well as their online properties. The 2012 tournament culminates with the Final Four at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on March 31 and April 1.
Among its social and new media activations, Dove Men+Care said it has partnered with Viggle, a loyalty program for television, to offer fans who check into NCAA basketball games within Viggle the "chance to earn extra points" by watching the 'Journey to Comfort' videos."
Visitors will have access to a Viggle Dove Men+Care NCAA tournament page featuring live tournament stats, discussions, “Journey to Comfort” talent videos, and opportunities to purchase Dove Men+Care products through Amazon.com.
The Dove Men+Care Twitter and Facebook pages will enable visitors to connect with O’Neal, Nash and Izzo for game predictions and basketball discussions. Their stories will also be available via downloadable Dove Men+Care apps for IOS or Android devices.
A “Shaq’s Big Excuse” Facebook app will enable users to send one of several customizable phone messages to a boss, co-worker or friend to use as a "hall pass" to get out of obligations and stay home to watch March Madness.
“I wasn’t always ‘the man,’” O’Neal says in one of his vignettes. “I had to work hard for my success in basketball, and had tremendous coaches along the way. Now I’m a coach, both as a father and to my teams at the Boys and Girls Club — growing into that role has been a huge part of my journey.”
Nash, in one of his spots, recalls his senior year at the University of Santa Clara on Selection Sunday "waiting for our name to come up. I had the whole team at my house. When our name came up, I took off out of the house and ran four blocks as fast as I could. It was a huge sense of relief and joy. When I came back my teammates were waiting in front of the house. 'Where'd you go? What were you doing?'"
"[This campaign] will resonate with fans who are also fathers, and not only enhances their NCAA tournament experience, but also their relationship with our brand.”
Via an interactive game of basketball challenges and sports trivia, visitors can be entered into the “Journey to the Final Four” sweepstakes at for a chance to win basketball prizes, autographed gear and a VIP trip to the 2013 NCAA Men’s Final Four in Atlanta. (Full details here.)
“This campaign takes even the most successful sports figures and transforms them from herculean to human,” Rob Candelino, vp-brand building for Unilever Skincare, said in a statement. “Most men admire these three legends for leading their teams to victory, but when Shaq, Nash and Izzo talk about the most important ‘team’ to them, it’s their children that take center court."
According to Candelino, this perspective will resonate "with fans who are also fathers, and not only enhances their NCAA tournament experience, but also their relationship with our brand.”
O’Neal, Nash and Izzo join a roster of athletes and coaches who have appeared in past “Journey to Comfort” activation that includes Drew Brees, Albert Pujols, Joe Girardi, Andy Pettitte, Magic Johnson, John Thompson III, Bobby Hurley, Stewart Cink, Davis Love III and Kirk Herbstreit.