There are a lot more than 360,000 NCAA basketball fans, and just
about all of us would like to hurl our televisions at whoever
created the NCAAs latest advertising campaign.

Courtney Lewis

OK, I don’t have any proof of that, but I’m fairly
sure it’s true. I, for one, cannot take it anymore. I just
might snap the next time I have to listen to the pyschology
major/basketball player ask, “What am I?” (Answer:
Nobody cares!! Seriously.)

These irritating ads debuted during last year’s basketball
postseason, and by April, they were so popular that every time they
appeared on the Jumbotron at the 2003 Frozen Four, the crowd booed.
The Michigan fans were more hostile toward the commercials than
they were toward the Golden Gophers.

But were the people in the NCAAs marketing department
discouraged? Of course not! They just poured it on even more this
year. Give them points for persistence, I guess. Now, those of you
who aren’t basketball fans (I’ve heard you exist;
I’m not sure if I believe it.) are probably wondering why I
don’t just change the channel or turn off the television.
That’s the thing — I can’t. And I have to admit
that there’s a certain genius in cramming as many ads as
possible into the March Madness television coverage. This is one of
the very few events for which I implement a no-channel-surfing rule
(unless I’m flipping between CBS affiliates). These ads
appear during the one event where I won’t risk flipping
during commercials because I always end up missing a buzzer-beater
or a bricked free throw. Besides, what else would I possibly want
to watch?

Even if I could pull myself away from the television during the
month of March, it wouldn’t matter. You see, the NCAA
prepared for that. Its campaign of monotony goes way beyond hoops
games on TV.

On Sunday, I drove two hours to Grand Rapids to watch the hockey
Midwest Regional final only to find the messages waiting for me at
Van Andel Arena. I think the ads played on the video boards during
intermission, but I’m not sure (see, my brain cells are
already starting to curl up and die rather than be subjected to any
more of this.) What was disturbing was that an all-text version of
the ads scrolled down the center-ice jumbotron throughout the
ENTIRE GAME.

It was like the NCAA was trying to brainwash the crowd or
something. Somewhere in the arena, an unsuspecting Minnesota-Duluth
fan looked up in search of a replay, and instead, quickly slipped
into a trance.

“Did you see that move? That guy — and just about
all of us will be going pro in something other than sports. Will be
going pro in something other than sports. Will be going
pro…”

But that’s not all! Apparently the enterprising NCAA
didn’t think sports fans’ lives were quite saturated
enough with its campaign, and it went in search of even more places
to stick the ads.

Thus, when I went to the NCAA administrative website (ncaa.org)
on Monday, I couldn’t find the Frozen Four media information
that I needed, but I was given the chance to watch an online
version of that poor psych major, who still hadn’t figured
out what she was.

At that point, I was starting to worry that I would soon be
mumbling the slogan in my sleep and having hallucinations of the
other hoops player, who, amazingly, prepared himself for life
simply by shooting free throws.

In small quantities, the ads aren’t actually that bad
— the spots are certainly better than the cheesy PSAs that
schools run during every televised college sporting event. My
biggest problem, besides the fact that it feels like the NCAA is
stalking me, is that the same two ads play over and over and over
again.

Why?!

If the NCAA really needed to bombard us with images of athletes
who actually go to class, couldn’t it at least have designed
a few more versions of the ads?

The message might have some merit. But how effective are the ads
going to be when they’re shown during one of the biggest
events in collegiate sports? Maybe, if they run a few more million
times, they will start to counteract all of the commercialism and
hype surrounding the Final Four. Somehow, I doubt it.

But the NCAA is relentless. And I am defenseless. I have to
watch the Final Four this weekend. So I might as well prepare
myself to surrender to the psych major and the free throw shooter.
I can already feel the NCAA taking over my brain.

There are over 360,000 NCAA student athletes … Over
360,000 NCAA student athletes … Over 360,000

Courtney Lewis can be reached at
“mailto:cmlewis@umich.edu”>cmlewis@umich.edu

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