Imagine you’re a ‘me too’ brand. You’re Pepsi vs. Coke, Burger King vs. McDonald’s or Avis vs. Hertz. Year
after year, you struggle mightily to improve your quality and service to change the status quo. And, one would hope, you make damn sure your marketing strategy reflects your desired goal. As a result, you associate your brand with everything that Frank Sinatra might describe as, ‘…A number one, top of the heap.’
So, how do we account for MasterCard’s sponsorship of the N.I.T. College basketball tournament? Why would the perennial number two credit card company lend its name to an also-ran tourney that absolutely no one cares about? What were they thinking? Was the strategy to ‘own’ mediocrity? Did someone in MasterCard’s Purchase, NY, headquarters sigh and say, “You know what? We know we’re second best. Everyone else knows we’re second best, so why not strike a partnership with a second rate tournament?”
Thousand of dollars to underwrite target market golf events? Smart. Hundreds of thousands of dollars to ‘own’ category exclusivity at the upcoming Olympics? Strategic. Millions to sponsor a totally bogus college basketball tournament? Clueless.