After reading SportsBusiness Journal’s recent report on the NCAA’s decision to target a new QSR Corporate Champion that was more committed to activating the partnership beyond the media, my instincts were to commend the NCAA for wanting its corporate partners to fully leverage and realize the full potential of this high profile sponsorship property. After all, NCAA Corporate Champions are not only asked to pay a premium for March Madness media on CBS and Turner, but also a healthy rights fee that preserves access to the NCAA marks, logos and association with its crown jewel event. So, why wouldn’t a partner like Burger King take advantage of these rights and create national promotions that tap into college basketball fans’ passion, celebrate its association with March Madness, and extend these activities down to the retail/local level?

However, as I began giving this a bit more thought, some additional questions came to mind. The NCAA was willing to take billions from CBS and Turner for the broadcast and promotional rights to March Madness, which resulted in the requirement for Corporate Champions to commit to $30 million-plus media spends during the course of the tournament, and pay an additional $5 million plus on intangible sponsorship rights. Given that, why should the NCAA be critical of a partner like Burger King that has demonstrated a willingness to activate the media with contextually relevant creative and use talent like Chris Weber, Seth Davis and Kenny Smith in its advertising? Why should the NCAA feel entitled to have its cake and eat it too by requiring already heavily invested Corporate Champions to adjust their activation strategies, and find incremental budget to extend and promote March Madness through their retail channels?

Conversely, why should a sponsor like Burger King be asked to give up the right, which they have paid for, to not only pass on activating the marks at retail, but prevent a competitor like McDonald’s from using its retail channel to undermine gains it has and will make from activating the media through contextually relevant advertising? While I’m not suggesting that partners don’t at least owe it to themselves to explore all the ways they can get more out of sponsorships, I will suggest (and data from Turnkey’s 2016 NCAA Advertising and Sponsor Loyalty study confirms) that media activation can be a very effective use of sponsorship rights. So… perhaps I should have been applauding Burger King all along.

What do you think about the suggested parameters on Corporate Champions? Let Donte know on twitter.

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