As this weekend of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament (the official name of March Madness) culls the field from the Sweet Sixteen to the Final Four, viewers on television will see a lot of ads for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. In fact, the commercials will start to seem repetitive very quickly for viewers: AT&T for communications, Capital One for credit cards, Coca-Cola (and subsidiary PowerAde) for beverages, Lowe's for home improvement, Wendy's for fast food ... And there's a reason -- each of those major corporations has paid for exclusive licensing and media rights for their market segments during NCAA events, most specifically the basketball tournament.
"One Shining Moment" is corny even by NCAA standards.
Why does the NCAA have Corporate Champions and Partners?
The answer is primarily that the NCAA can have corporate partners, despite being a non-profit organization that exists for the benefit of member colleges and universities. The focus is on the March Madness tournament, which provides most of the entity's income (more than $800 million in revenue per year from the tournament alone). As CBS and Turner Sports have negotiated the long-term broadcast rights for the basketball tournament, potential sponsors have to negotiate through those television networks (not the NCAA itself). In return, those partners get market-segment exclusivity in both the television broadcasts and event venues for the duration of the tournament -- they still have to pay for the ad space and airtime but all competitors are blocked.
Has Enterprise Always Been an NCAA Partner?
Remarkably, Enterprise wasn't the original rental car sponsor of the NCAA. That honor goes to National Car Rental, which became an Enterprise subsidiary (along with Alamo) in 2007. Exclusive partnerships were already in place -- National's signing on blocked any other rental car company from being involved in NCAA Championship events! National felt the tournament was able to bring their product awareness to a broad market, enhanced their image, grew market share, and guaranteed signage. National's core market segment 25 years ago was males aged 30-53; none of our team was in that target demographic then but many of us are now.
What Will the Next Two Weekends Look Like?
If one's not able to mentally ignore advertising, they will see Enterprise logos along the ring of arenas, likely behind the baskets, announcements on transitions between game action and commercials, and in actual commercials themselves. That may be beneficial for fans of Enterprise, Kristen Bell, or George Mason University's Green Machine. It helps Enterprise be front-of-mind as the company that hires the most college graduates each year (May isn't that far away)! And as the world's largest rental car company, holding the role of NCAA partner prevents all competitors from getting airtime -- even with limited growth opportunities in the United States, preventing the growth of competitors can simply be viewed as a cost of doing business.
Princess Anna also makes tons of commercials for Enterprise.
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