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NCAA Tournament Advertisers Get Creative In Working Around Prohibitive Use Of Players

NCAA Tournament Advertisers Get Creative In Working Around Prohibitive Use Of Players

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Hill endorses Pizza Hut's Pie Top shoes in the company's NCAA Tournament spot
The NCAA Tournament is a "case study in what sports marketing looks like when the athletes are off limits," according to Sapna Maheshwari of the N.Y. TIMES. Companies spend more than $1B on TV ads tied to the tournament, plus "millions more on online marketing and ads in and around arenas where games are played." However, the NCAA "strictly prohibits the names or likenesses of the college athletes from being used in advertising for products and services." Octagon Chief Strategy Officer Simon Wardle said, "With an NFL or MLB deal, or any major league, you have inherent in those league rights the opportunity to show players. With the NCAA, you've effectively got the rule of none. From a marketing perspective, that then leads you down some more creative paths, if you will." Maheshwari notes this year LG is "airing commercials that show mascots from universities," while a spot from Buffalo Wild Wings "includes an actor portraying a player in a Louisville uniform." Coca-Cola, "represented courtside" with its Powerade label, is "selling commemorative glass bottles online at $5 a pop that fans can customize with team logos or nicknames." Coaches and former players are "another popular alternative." Former UConn coach Jim Calhoun and former Duke player J.J. Redick "lent their names to a campaign from Unilever's Dove Men+Care," while Pizza Hut enlisted Grant Hill to "help tout a limited run of shoes called Pie Tops." Pizza Hut VP/Media & Advertising David Daniels said, "It felt very authentic to have an actual former player wear them and use them, and that's where we landed on with Grant Hill" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/20).

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