qloansWarren Buffett didn’t get to be one of the richest men in America by placing bad bets. So when he backed a plan to offer a billion dollar prize (that’s right, billion with a b) to a person who selects the NCAA men’s basketball bracketology pool with a perfect score, he did more than raise eyebrows.

He also got a billion dollars worth of free publicity!

He’s ahead of the game already in terms of ROI and publicity per dollar. It’s likely he’ll get a ton more publicity as the games are played. Already, articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal and NPR. It’s been on the Associated Press which means it has been written about in nearly every daily newspaper in the country.

What does this mean for us marketers?

1.     Catch onto a trend that everyone is talking about. March Madness dominates office conversations for several weeks. Someone in your group is going to bring up the Buffett challenge. You can’t buy word-of-mouth marketing like that. Oh yeah, Buffett showed you can buy word of mouth marketing like that.
2.     Make an outrageous claim that you can back up. If he had offered $100,000 as the grand prize, it might have gotten some coverage. Even a million would have made headlines, but a billion? He made darn sure that no other multi-gazillionaire would top his offer this year – or next year.

Of course, Buffett doesn’t place bets he knows he can’t win. The odds against someone winning is astronomical. I’ll bet a monkey with a dartboard wins it, though. I hope monkeys are eligible to win.

And, of course he wouldn’t do this unless he saw a financial reward. He doesn’t need the publicity, of course. He aligned himself with Quicken Loans as the sponsor. To enter the contest, you have to provide Quicken Loans with your name, email and other data, such as “Do you need a mortgage?”

Now you understand the marketing. He offers a big prize to one person (who is not likely to win), in exchange for up to 15 million prospects.

Quicken Loans says they will contact only people want to be contacted, which is great. When other people need a mortgage in the future, they will have had a positive exposure to Quicken Loans. It’s a win-win-win.

Just don’t spend your billion dollars, just yet.

If you’d like to play March Madness with me and my loyal band of PR LEADERS (for no financial reward), click this link and select your team by Thursday morning. Registration ends when the first game begins:


You will be asked to enter the group password, which is PRLEADS. You can save your entry after you complete the entire form, including the tiebreaker score.

It’s just for fun.

Sometimes you do marketing things just for fun.