March Madness is going luxury.
For years, the official car of the NCAA men's basketball championship was Pontiac. This year, Infiniti takes over.
"When the property became available, we knew we wanted to go after it," said Kathy Roznowski, senior manager of media and marketing operations for the Nissan high-end brand.
Although the cars Infiniti is advertising during the tournament (its M series) are at a much higher price point that Pontiac — in between $20,000 and $30,000 more — brand officials still think the association can lead to car purchase.
Roznowski said that after tennis, basketball is the second most viewed sport among the car brand's demographic.
Not only is Infiniti advertising on CBS — it does not own a category exclusive — the car brand will also sponsor brackets on CBSSports.comand have two 15-second commercials in every game watched on March Madness on Demand that will drive people back to the brand's Web site.
Even at the high price point, Roznowski says Infiniti plans to be able to trace back its return on
investment though the company doesn't expect to see an immediate huge bump in car sales as a result of being associated with March Madness.
It helps that the company is releasing its 2011 Infiniti M nationwide on March 18, the day the field of 64 begin play.
"This starts with awareness and we'll be monitoring impressions on that," Roznowski said. "But we'll have two more phases in this campaign in April and May that we think can drive leads to dealerships."
Generating awareness is a goal for the Infiniti brand. Infiniti branded cars only make up 0.9 percent of the US auto market, according to the latest numbers from Autodata.
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