By Barry Janoff
March 19, 2013: The NCAA Div. 1 Men's Basketball Tournament begins tonight with the First Four and culminates with the Final Four on April 6 and April 8.
NCAA corporate partner Coca-Cola says it has the tournament covered.
Coke this week breaks a series of TV spots under the umbrella theme, "It's Not Your Fault"; will activate with NCAA media partners CBS and Turner Broadcasting (including such programming as Conan O'Brien's late-night TBS show); has incorporated its mark on several March Madness-related Web and mobile destinations; and has taken over part of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, which not only is where Coke is headquartered but also the site of the Final Four, to be played in the Georgia Dome.
According to Coke, the “It’s Not Your Fault" campaign, which supports Coke Zero, "takes a lighthearted and comedic approach to say that with Coke Zero you can enjoy everything in life."
“We’re talking to men more overtly with 'It’s Not Your Fault," Pio Schunker, svp and head of Integrated Marketing Communications, North America Group for Coca-Cola, said in a statement. “We’re positioning Coke Zero as a defender and celebrator of guy enjoyment.”
"It's Not Your Fault" has endless iterations, each coming with a designated number for future reference, which Coca-Cola said it would carry through to Nascar and football programming later in the year.
In "Gumbel," we get Reason No. 12: "It's not your fault you can't stop watching March Madness. Did you make (NCAA announcer) Greg Gumbel's voice so incredibly soothing?" (See the spot here.)
In "Schedules," we hear Reason No. 45: "It's not your fault you watched eight straight hours of basketball. Did you schedule 16 games in one day? No! So saddle up for hour nine and enjoy everything!" (See the spot here.)
In "Brackets," guys are told, "It's not your fault you are working on brackets instead of working on work. Someone needs to put an end to Sharon's reign of terror (the co-worker who has won the tournament bracket pool seven years running). Plus, picking sides has always been a national tradition (as a shot of the nation's founders picking America over Britain proves). You're not slacking. You're just being patriotic. So pick those picks and enjoy everything." (See the spot here.)
Other spots will include "Video Game," which comes with digital content including a seven-part video series
In Atlanta, where Coke is part of the host city committee, the brand has redesigned part of the arrivals terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson International with Coke-March Madness themed images.
"Since this is our hometown and the world headquarters of Coca-Cola, what better way to do that then to give travelers and fans a proper, southern welcome at the airport as they begin their Final Four experience?” Kasia Horner, who leads the NCAA Final Four host city marketing efforts on behalf of Coca-Cola, said in a statement. “It’s just one component, but certainly the most impactful, of our host city marketing plan."
Coke Zero said that is alliance with Turner and Conan would launch during NCAA Final Four week when the show originates from Atlanta, including bands performing at the Conan Coke Zero Music Series and a Conan “It’s Not Your Fault” promotional spot. Conan will be filmed in Atlanta April 1-4.
Support for the campaign — created in partnership with Droga5 New York, Starcom MediaVest Group, Turner and the NCAA — also includes the March Madness Live mobile app, radio, print and national out-of-home "with a strong focus on Atlanta," according to Coke. The brand will also be on the ground in Atlanta with the Coke Zero Final Four Bracket Town FanFest, offering more than 300,000 square feet of family friendly activities.
“Coke Zero has experienced quarter after quarter growth and success, and we hope to see this campaign continue the momentum. ‘It’s Not Your Fault’ is launching in a big way through universal guy assets like NCAA March Madness and a co-branded promotional spot with Conan,” Andy McMillin, vp-Coke Trademark, North America Group, said in a statement. “Coke Zero brand attributes are well established, now it’s time for the brand to make the next big leap to connect with its drinkers. The brand definitely is evolving.”
Official NCAA corporate champions include AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola. Official corporate partners include Allstate, Buffalo Wild Wings, Buick, Enterprise, Infiniti, LG, Lowe’s, Nabisco, Northwestern Mutual, Reese’s (Hershey’s), Unilever and UPS.
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