To leverage March Madness, NCAA partner Pizza Hut has created a limited edition pair of hi-tech basketball sneakers called ‘Pie Tops’ that enable the wearer to order simply by hitting a button on the tongue.
So hoops fans and pizza lovers are no longer restricted to the traditional online and telephone ordering platforms and are now able to use their sneakers to order (through a connection to a Pie Tops app) and have their pizza delivered to wherever they are (via in-shore geolocation).
The Pie Tops are the centrepiece of the official March Madness pizza brand’s Grant Hill fronted tournament campaign launched at the end of February.
The campaign’s hero TV spot,
and other executions and assets are amplified across the brand’s digital and social channels including Twitter,
The future is now. Or whatever time this was posted. pic.twitter.com/NpSrdE6Wu1
— Pizza Hut (@pizzahut) March 1, 2017
Brace yourself. pic.twitter.com/V4Vs4PV2gR
— Pizza Hut (@pizzahut) March 1, 2017
Pizza Hut worked with agency Droga5 and Dominic Chambrone (who’s self proclaimed nickname is ‘The Shoe Surgeon’) to create 64 pairs of pizza-ordering shoes: one for each of the 64 teams in the NCAA Tournament.
While they will not actually go on public sale, the shoes will be distributed amongst influencers, endorsers, contest winners and Pizza Hut consumers.
— Jake Holland (@jakeholla) March 4, 2017
The PR-driving product stunt, which links to a specific Pizza Hut promotion for March and April, primarily aims to focus attention on the ease of online and social ordering across multiple devices and platforms (including phone, tablet, laptop and Alexa-enabled devices, as well as on Facebook Messenger, Twitter and many more channels).
David Daniels, VP of media and advertising for Pizza Hut parent Yum Brands, confesses that the idea came from Droga5.
‘We loved it,’ recalls Daniels.
‘This is one of those ideas that as soon as we saw it, we wanted to buy it. It hit everything we wanted to communicate in this window in a fun, really relevant way. And it was beautifully tied to the thematic of the tournament and the season.’
‘As far as we know, this has never been done before. We feel it’s highly culturally relevant. Sneakers are hot,’ he continues.
But are the shoes actually any good for playing hoops in?
‘We haven’t gone that far yet,’ admits Daniels.
‘Grant will have a pair, though, and we’ll have to get his take on the performance nature of them on the court, versus ordering pizza.’
This eye-catchingly daft initiative is surely an early contender for craziest creative combination of ad activation and the NCAA Tournament.
March Madness or marketing madness?
It certainly presses plenty of the usual sports sponsorship hot buttons: from wearable tech and the internet of things, to products as promotions and PR-driven stunt firsts.
While the NCAA may state that its sport is all about educational opportunities for athletes, sponsors of the organisation and its constituent schools, plus the tournament’s official broadcasters know that March Madness is also a unique commercial opportunity.
The initiative runs under the ongoing Pizza Hut All-American programme – part of its broader partnership with the NCAA, Turner Sports and CBS Sports – signed it in 2016 the tie-up sees it activate at around 90 NCAA championships (from basketball and cross country to water polo) through the year.
This ‘official pizza of the NCAA’ relationship sees the Yum Brands brand aim to support intercollegiate athletics and student athlete achievements through marketing programmes and initiative at several of the highest profile NCAA events and properties.
The deal gives Pizza Hut the rights to use NCAA marks, logos and media, the opportunity to activative on-site at NCAA events (including March Madness, College World Series, Frozen etc).
‘Most companies sign up for March Madness. We wanted to take a unique twist and activate at every Division 1 national championship,’ explains Pizza Hut PR and partnerships manager Courtney Moscovic.
Interestingly, Pizza Hut is just one of three restaurant brands with official NCAA sponsorship slots in a partnership portfolio of 18 companies cross sold by the organisation’s broadcast and media partners Turner and CBS Sports.
Pizza Hut has signed up in the pizza category, Buffalo Wild Wings is the NCAA’s official sit-down restaurant, while the fast food / quick service category is available (since Burger King unexpectedly exited last year).
The NCAA’s portfolio breaks into two tiers:
Buffalo Wild Wings