By Barry Janoff
March 12, 2017: Of all the people traveling to Phoenix to watch the NCAA Men’s Div. I Basketball Final Four and championship game in the University of Phoenix Stadium, Charles Barkley, Samuel L. Jackson and Spike Lee are three of them.
Thanks to NCAA corporate champion partner Capital One, the trio return for their fourth starring roles in a humorous March Madness campaign, which follows them as they prepare for their trip, are en route and then finally arrive, with comedic scenarios along the way.
This year, Capital One has added a guest star: Gloria Gaynor, the singer of "I Will Survive" fame, who makes an appearance in one of the several new spots for the financial firm, "Ringtone," as an airline stewardess who gets to sing her signature song.
The campaign, "This Is March Madness," supports Capital One — an official NCAA partner since 2010 — and its Quicksilver card as the official bank and credit card of the Final Four. The effort, which breaks this week with four TV spots (plus a fifth blooper reel), also is being supported via digital and social media.
Lead agency is DDB, Chicago. The spots were directed by Lee.
Capital One was among the Top Five spenders on TV during March Madness 2016, a $46 million TV buy for 199 spots, according to research and consulting firm Kantar Media, NY.
The Top Five spenders were General Motors ($493 million), followed by AT&T ($80 million), Coca-Cola ($47 million), Capital One and Volkswagen ($39 million).
In addition to the TV spots, Capital One's involvement in March Madness 2017 is multi-platform.
This year, it includes sponsorship of the March Madness Bracket Challenge, title sponsor of the Capital One JamFest — the three-day music festival that also includes the AT&T Block Party and Coca-Cola Music (March 31-April 2) — the Final Four Fan Fest presented by Capital One (in the Phoenix Convention Center) and Capital One Championship Central on-air during Final Four weekend broadcasts on CBS.
The Capital One JamFest will star Aerosmith and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
The company is also presenting sponsor for Tourney Town at the Women's Final Four in Dallas.
"I Will Survive" was released in 1978 and reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
In 2016, the Library of Congress deemed Gaynor's original recording of "I Will Survive" to be "culturally, historically, or artistically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Recording Registry.
Gaynor still performs in concert and is also an author and motivational singer, turning her song into a “We Will Survive” message of encouragement.
Barkley, as usual with Capital One creative, is at the center of good-natured taunting.
In, "Snack Hoodie," Barkley has his hooded sweatshirt on backward so that the hood is near his mouth. Jackson says to him, "You know you put your hoodie on backward." "Did I?" says Barkley. "It’s called a Snack Hoodie (which is filled with chips)."
Lee says to him, "You’ve gone mad." To which Barkley, munching away at the snacks by barely moving his head, says, "There’s a fine line between madness and genus."
"Layers" finds the guys preparing for their trip to Phoenix to watch the Final Four. Jackson and Lee realize that Barkley has not packed a suitcase, instead choosing to wear several outfits in layers. This way, he explains, he is prepared for workouts in sports gear, which he rips off to reveal a tuxedo ("For a night at the opera"), which he rips off to pajamas ("Sleepover with the guys"), which he rips off to reveal a funky outfit from the ‘70s ("Disco party").
He then explains that under it all is a bathing suit for a possible pool party "or nothing, depending on the party."
In "Steaks (On a Plane)," the three are sitting in a plane headed to Phoenix having dinner. Barkley asks Jackson, "Sam, what are we eating?" Jackson replies, "Steak." Barkley then asks, "And where are we eating it?" "On a plane," Jackson replies. Barkley then says, "So we’re eating . . . " To which Jackson begrudgingly replies, "Steaks on a plane" (referring to his 2006 cult movie, Snakes on a Plane).
"How long you been working on that?" Lee asks Barkley. "Oh, ever since the movie came out," Barkley replies.
"Ringtone (I Will Survive)" again sees them on a plane en route the Final Four. Barkley gets a call on his cell phone, which has Gaynor’s "I Will Survive" as its ringtone. Rather than mock him, Jackson and Lee join Barkley in singing the lyrics.
As they get more rambunctious in singing and dancing in their seats, a stewardess approaches, seemingly to shut them down. Instead, Gaynor joins them in belting out her disco anthem.
"Bloopers" shows the guys working on the "Ringtone" spot but with Lee constantly messing up the lyrics, which sends Jackson, Barkley, Gaynor and the other actors on the set into hysterics.
Marketers are expected to top last year’s record TV spend of $1.24 billion during March Madness, which was up from $1.18 billion in 2015, according to Kantar Media.
Editor's Note: Capital One has since release two more spots in the campaign: "Chuck's Town" and "Clapper."
March Madness Marketers Set To Top $1.24B Record TV Spend