NCAA Taps Leo Burnett as New Creative Agency

First Work to Debut During March Madness Next Year

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Leo Burnett's Detroit office has picked up the creative account for the National Collegiate Athletic Association after a review.

The association called an agency review earlier this year and the incumbent, WPP's Y&R, did not participate. In terms of revenue, the account is small -- the NCAA in its request-for-proposal to shops said it was looking to hire a full-service agency agency for $1.2 million annually for two years -- but several agencies chased the opportunity for its creative potential and creds the business can add to a shop's reel.

Steve Chavez, executive creative director at Leo Burnett in Detroit, said the agency is "excited about the partnership and how [it will] get a chance to change the conversation....about letting people know this is an in-depth, significant institution."

Mr. Chavez noted that the NCAA, with its appointment of a new lead creative agency, hopes that it can increase awareness and boost perception of the sports brand.

Bob Williams, VP-communications at the NCAA, told Ad Age that it's not so much that the public has a negative perception of the NCAA, it's more a "lack of understanding."

"People don't realize that it's a voluntary organization and that the focus of the NCAA transcends the competition or the sports themselves," said Mr. Williams, adding that the NCAA will be leveraging social media more going forward.

Mr. Williams said that Leo Burnett and the NCAA are still working out details of the upcoming campaign, so it's unclear whether its tagline will stay or if a new one will be developed. The NCAA's current tag is a lengthy one: "There are more than 400,000 NCAA student-athletes, and most of us will be going pro in something other than sports."

TV creative is expected to debut during next year's March Madness, though it's likely that print, radio and digital work will appear before then.

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