CDW Brings Back Barkley for March Madness, Ads Social Element

Sir Charles is Back in Fifth Chapter of 'People Who Get IT' Story

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Advertising Age Player

CDW knows it has something in Charles Barkley that resonates with sports fans and IT decision makers, but in its latest March Madness-focused campaign the enterprise IT products-and-services provider is trying something new: social media.

In its fifth marketing effort using Mr. Barkley, CDW partnered with sports-and-technology information provider STATS and Reddit during the NCAA tournament for its "Smart Growth" campaign.

The decision to add a social component to what already seemed like a winning formula was made in hopes of connecting more directly with potential customers.

"This is our fifth iteration of the 'People Who Get IT' effort and we have learned that we need to talk to customers on a one-to one basis," said CDW Chief Marketing Officer Neal Campbell. "We know business decisions are made by people and we have to connect with them on an individual level."

On March 18, CDW promoted a live Q&A on Reddit with Ethan Cooperson, a senior research analyst from STATS as well as ESPN analyst Jay Williams. Even if it's not on par with Reddit Q&As with celebrities or politicians, the b-to-b social effort generated nearly 100 comments, the majority of which touched on bracket decisions and some specific NCAA teams. Another Reddit Q&A session is planned during the Final Four contest.

Meanwhile, eight different Ogilvy-created TV spots are airing on CBS Sports networks and online and will continue through the Final Four, and possibly beyond according to Mr. Campbell.

"In general, our [marketing] strategy has been to hit the market hard two to three times a year. We go hard with Monday Night Football, March Madness and when golf takes off as well," said Mr. Campbell. "The IT decision maker is changing, but there is a strong association with sports with them, so look for us to tie that around major sports."

CDW's fictional Gordon & Taylor hired Mr. Barkley in March of 2012 in an attempt to show how CDW powers social media, internal communications, sales and PR support.

Since Barkley's arrival at Gordon & Taylor, the company has won at basketball, won new business by losing at golf, won on the road with its mobile office and won despite having a football stadium without a team. In the newest campaign, "Smart Growth," Gordon & Taylor is feeling pressures including hiring challenges, space constraints and bottom-line worries.

"Our social team is always pushing us to look at new ways to get out in social community so when we have bigger brand campaigns we have the opportunity to try things out," said Cathy Francque, senior VP, executive group director at Ogilvy & Mather. "Adding Reddit really aligns with the one-to-one idea, and having a Q&A with a target audience we thought was the way to go."

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