The March Madness Maestro: 5 Questions with Buick’s Molly Peck

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On Monday, Buick will be front and center at one of America’s biggest sporting events, with its top-tier automotive sponsorship of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Now in its fifth consecutive March Madness, the tournament’s official auto partner is hosting an online “trick shot” bracket competition, in which 16 trick shot experts will compete, and consumers will vote for the winners.

Marketing during the tournament will include the newest addition to its ongoing “That’s Not a Buick” campaign.[more]

In the spot, a grandmother gushes because she can update her blog from a Wi-Fi-enabled Buick (thanks to GM’s OnStar telematics).

Meanwhile, a father disappoints his family when he pulls into the driveway and shuts off his Buick, ending their Wi-Fi connection.

Buick is once again sponsoring the humorous Boss Button on NCAA.com‘s live streaming portal, to help at-work tournament viewers hide their activities.

The button quickly hides the game and opens up a spreadsheet—compete with Buick branding. Or, if they need to quickly click away at home, a car-shopping site (for Buick, of course) pops up.

“People thought it was super fun,” Molly Peck, Buick’s Director of Marketing and Advertising, told brandchannel. “And we were able to be part of the enjoyment.”

Peck shared more thoughts with brandchannel on March Madness and Buick’s place in the US market right now.

brandchannel: This is Buick’s fifth year as the primary automotive sponsor of March Madness. How has the brand optimized this important platform?

Molly Peck: March Madness is the No. 1 sports platform for reaching college graduates—and with that comes higher incomes and a higher professional levels in the workplace.

It’s a great place for us to tell the Buick story. This audience isn’t just basketball-crazy fans but also those who are excited by the tournament play itself, and by the participation of their schools. And it gives us an extended three-week time frame to convey the Buick message.

We’ve gotten really good at using the different marketing levers to reach consumers. Five years ago, it was all about the broadcast media, so we had a big broadcast buy—and we still do.

But digital has become increasingly important because people are consuming the tournament and relevant information online. So we’ve gotten really sophisticated about how to reach people online.

bc: And so that’s the idea behind the trick-shot bracket challenge?

Peck: We went to 16 trick shot artists around the country and invited them to give us their best shot. They produced and submitted videos, which we then branded with our tagline. On Monday, the competition will begin online. The winner will earn bragging rights as the ultimate trick-shot artist. We expect it to be fun.

bc: How do you effectively manage the digital element?

Peck: While we still spend more on broadcast, digital continues to increase in terms of our overall percentage of reach and spend. That includes everything from lifestyle digital advertising to in-market digital and social.

Increasingly, the media is fragmented and customers choose where they consume their content. Since they choose broadcast and digital, it’s up to us to be there.

We’re incredibly disciplined in our message: We don’t run a lot of ads at the same time. We focus on one message and one voice with consumers. Whether you’re online or watching TV, you’re going to see the same message.

bc: Have you seen any direct connection between last year’s “That’s Not a Buick” campaign and the brand’s sales success?

Peck: Neilsen metrics found that last year’s campaign set a record in terms in terms of memorability. At the same time, Buick enjoyed its best sales year since 2005. The Enclave had its best year ever, and the Encore enjoyed 12 consecutive months of year-over-year sales gains. Our ultimate measure is sales.

Although we kicked off the campaign last year during March Madness, our NCAA partnership continues throughout the year. In January, we partnered with the NCAA for the first College Football Championship. So it’s really our most significant relationship, hands-down.

bc: How much more mileage is there in that campaign?

Peck: The campaign is extraordinarily likeable, and it hits the sweet spot. It will continue to evolve, for example, with the debut of the new WiFi ad during the tournament. Last year, “That’s Not a Buick,” was basically a wink and a nod acknowledging the Buicks you think you know are not the ones we really build.

So consumers are getting a bit more information about what they can expect from Buick: beautiful cars, high value, excellent safety and innovative throughout—as demonstrated by the Wi-Fi feature.

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