Google Cloud features students in March Madness campaign

The company enters year two of its NCAA sponsorship

By Published on .

"The Official Cloud of the NCAA" is making its second March Madness run with a new campaign featuring actual students.

Google Cloud inked a multiyear sponsorship deal with NCAA last year, and teamed up with the organization to turn more than 80 years of data into actual insights for its last campaign. Now the company is switching things up. It recruited some 30 students to help come up with interesting predictions alongside its own team of data scientists.

"The concept of 'explosiveness'—or when the announcer says, 'This team is really explosive'—the students went in to figure out what goes into that," Alison Wagonfeld, chief marketing officer at Google Cloud, says. "From a campaign standpoint, it is phenomenal because it shows how easy and accessible Google Cloud is."

In one spot, students are shown brainstorming in front of computers while the mascot of the University of Oregon—a large duck—waltzes through and dunks a toy-sized basketball. "This March Madness, see how Google Cloud student developers are using data to analyze games all tournament long," a narrator says.

San-Francisco-based agency Eleven created the spot, which is set to air during Selection Sunday.

Future workforce

Google Cloud was a late entrant in the cloud arena, lagging behind industry leaders Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure. Wagonfeld hopes to close the gap through its deal with the NCAA, adding that getting students involved should help Google Cloud grow organically as students prepare to enter the workforce.

"When companies are choosing their cloud providers they go to their developers," Wagonfeld says. "Given the importance of developers, many of these students go on to become just that."

There will also be a campaign landing page showcasing different student predictions, as well as training programs for both newcomers and veterans of its platform.

The company also opted to promote its services through the NCAA to increase brand awarness, a tactic other tech companies such as Intel have already used. Although Wagonfeld declined to share specifics, she says last year's NCAA campaign reached 78 percent of its target audience—IT decision makers or C-suite executives—while also increasing its consideration among the demographic by 11 percent.

Borrowing from Salesforce

The company is also leveraging its partnership with the NCAA to promote Qwiklabs, which is an online training program designed to help both newcomers and veterans of its platform learn the tools of the trade and gain certification.

It's a move borrowed straight from Salesforce's playbook, which has seen wild success with its "Trailheads learning platform."

"We agree that Salesforce is a great example of enabling people at scale," Wagonfeld says, adding that the company also poached a key Salesforce exec to help jumpstart its own training platform. "There's been a massive ramping up of people wanting to use our Qwiklabs courses."

Last year, Google Cloud more than doubled both the number of deals it made while also increasing the number of $100 million-plus deals it signed, the company says.

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