March Madness Message to Marketers

Kingsford Charcoal burns the NCAA with #PayEd Campaign

Meet Ed O’Bannon, a talented college athlete whose likeness was used in a NCAA-licensed video game without his consent or compensation. Reports claim there are thousands” of student athletes in the same situation. None too pleased, Ed and others filed an antitrust class action lawsuit against the NCAA, challenging the organization’s use of images of former student athletes for commercial purposes. While the group recently won a landmark case last August, the NCAA appealed and litigation continues.

In all this brouhaha, one clever charcoal company fired off a brilliant David + Goliath like marketing campaign, positioning a brave and popular underdog against the big bad NCAA behemoth.

This month Kingsford Charcoal bags tout a picture of Ed O’Bannon and the company’s familiar tagline, with a searing twist:

“Lights 25% faster, doesn’t burn athletes.”

At the hub of the Kingsford Charcoal campaign is notably the hashtag #PayEd, which when tweeted on March 19th paid Ed O’Bannon $1 each time it was used.

I can’t help but consider the brilliance of this campaign. Clearly Kingsford is burning NCAA bridges, but their choice to ride the “right a wrong” rocket on social media during a month of madness is a keen one. And with #PayEd going viral and the limit set at $25,000, the cost of the promotion, including the new printing on all the bags, must have been… darn appealing, to say the least. All in all, a pretty clear smoke signal showing us the red hot marketing trends of tomorrow.

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