Filed at 11:50 a.m. EST on Feb. 25, 2009
CBS has signed up a raft of advertisers to its upcoming National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men's basketball tournament, even hanging on to troubled auto giant General Motors as a sponsor.
John Boguzs, Executive-VP sports sales at CBS said: "Overall the marketplace is challenging but, with that said, the good news is the vast majority of units are sold and we're down to a handful of units for the final four games and the championship."
Bogusz said all of the network's major sponsors are returning. They include AT&T, Coca-Cola and General Motors. "They didn't drop us," said Bogusz of General Motors, "This is part of a multi-year deal they're in." General Motors has backed out of numerous other big ad commitments in the past few months including, Super Bowl and the Academy Awards.
CBS is also working with a number of advertising and marketing partners who help support promotion of the college basketball event. Those partners are: Enterprise, The Hartford Financial Group, Hershey's, Lowe's, State Farm and Starwood Hotels." Chocolate company Hershey's is new to the list.
The tournament starts on March 19 ending with the championship on April 6. "This year it is wide open, the top ten has shifted this year. It will add to the excitement," added Bogusz.
March Madness On Demand, which airs on CBSSports.com and can be accessed from a variety of sports sites is attracting new support from advertisers. The digital portion of the event booked $23 million for the network last year. This year, CBS expects online sales to increase in the double digits along with audience growth. Last year, the games attracted 4.8 million unique views and at its height NCAA has averaged a 14 household rating. CBS has also partnered with Microsoft to provide technology to improve the video quality of the event.
However Bogusz described the online marketplace as being equally challenged overall. "We've done OK with auto business, movies will be up and financial business is down." Among auto advertisers appearing in the online coverage of NCAA are Mercedes, Toyota, Lexus and Audi, which is new to the event.
CBS will be using NCAA across its networks including CBS and CBS College Sports in addition to CBSSports.com. There are also some mobile applications to keep phone users in the loop.