AT&T Better Network Launch Via NCAA’s March Madness

The US telecoms giant is using its NCAA rights to roll out a fresh marketing approach that sees AT&T swap its long running ‘precocious kids’ creative for ‘nerdy engineers’ as it axes the brand’s long running ‘It’s Not Complicated’ tagline for ‘Better Network’.


Since 2012 the behemoth telco’s creative has been based around cute kids and their idiosyncratic perspectives, but to coincide with the March Madness seeding announcement AT&T rolled out its first fresh TV work focusing on endearingly nerdy and helpful engineers.


AT&T, the Executive Wireless Partner and Corporate Champion of the NCAA and the Final Four, introduces its new marketing approach with a launch TV spot starring two nerdy AT&T engineers tweaking the in-stadium wireless network antenna to ensure fans can use Twitter and Vine and blog from the Final Four arena.



The TVC actually depicts the fact that AT&T has improved the wireless and Wi-Fi system with 16 new arena antennas.


Whilst not all spots in the campaign’s launch phase focus on the NCAA tournament, such as ‘Office’



and ‘Rock Concert’,



Other product-specific AT&T TV work running through March also use basketball as the central creative them – including ‘Slam Dunk’



and its ‘Legends’ spot promoting its U-verse TV service app features Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and retired NBA stars David Robinson, Dikembe Mutombo and Michael Finley.



The new work, which actually links to an old AT&T slogan ‘Nothing But Network’ (a basketball play on words), follows brand research which found its customers are increasingly curious about how the network depth or breadth of coverage but on exploring the nuts-and-bolts of the wireless infrastructure.


The new campaign will feature heavily in commercial rotation during the Final Four phase of the tournament – which this year takes place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington (the arena is just a short drive away from AT&T’ corporate headquarters in downtown Dallas).


Unsurprisingly, AT&T has bought a huge amount of additional marketing real estate in the Dallas area in and around the stadium and the city for the Final Four.


The aim is that when the country’s best four college basketball teams and their fans arrive in town in early April, AT&T will win attention and awareness with ads plastered across the city from the airport to the AT&T Stadium itself.


Out-of-town fans arriving at both Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Dallas Love Field domestic airport will be faced with huge welcoming AT&T signs saying ‘Now Arriving … Hopes … Dreams … Destiny …’.


City billboards and ads wrapping Dallas buses and DART trains also tout the telecom giant’s tagline and NCAA partnership: ‘Nothing But Network.’


In terms of experiential events, AT&T is also presenting live music events in the city and it is also hosting Fan Zones where people can get coaches’ autographs or recharge their wireless devices as well as themselves.


Last year, more than 50,000 attended the AT&T Block Party in Atlanta.


Down the side of one downtown Dallas building is a giant outdoor AT&T  wallscape. It features a player hanging from the ring of a hoop after a slam dunk in one corner, while in the parking lot several floors below a giant huge basketball sits atop a crushed car.


The outdoor installation’s copy reads: ‘AT&T Welcomes The Final Four To Our Hometown’.


AT&T is also bolstering Wi-Fi hot spots and wireless systems in some areas around the stadium and across the city.


In addition to the advertising push, AT&T’s college basketball partnership also includes sponsoring the NCAA March Madness Live app – designed for fans live-streaming the games.


Coupled with a full-court press on social media, AT&T aims to use technology to create new experiences and increase fan interaction.


A media partnership also sees AT&T sponsor an app for TV host Conan O’Brien, which enables users watching his show on a smartphone to choose the camera angles during the show’s live broadcast.




The new ‘Better Network’ creative has been developed with agency BBDO, who also worked with the telecoms company on the previous ‘It’s Not Complicated’ commercials which had featured precocious, idiosyncratic kids since the campaign first launched in November 2012.


This move marks a change of tack for AT&T, which has previously been running the kind of ‘direct competitor comparison’ ad tactics that are so prevalent in the US telecoms marketing space.


Indeed, it sees AT&T switch away from its previous service and traffic comparison ad war with rival T-Mobile and dialling up a multi-platform campaign – spanning TV, print executions and digital ads – introducing its ‘Building You a Better Network’ campaign.


Linking the launch to the NCAA Final Four makes sense for several strategic reasons.


Not only is the crescendo of the college basketball season taking place in AT&T’s hometown and in a stadium for which the telco has the naming rights, but its NCAA partnership provides a huge national reach (with 68 teams), strong loyalty values and it also connects effectively with its multi-play ideal key target customer segment: young, educated adults who grew up with the internet are active on social media and comfortable with multi-screening.


AT&T will have a chance to stretch the work further at the end of the year when the NCAA college football playoff championship game is also played at AT&T Stadium.




AT&T Nothing But Network



AT&T March Madness Shop Website



NCAA Final Four Website



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