NCAA Spikes 'March Tweetness' Site From Twitter and Federated Media

  |  April 1, 2009   |  Comments

Site sponsored by AT&T violated college sports association's trademark and copyright. -- the new college basketball-themed mash-up from Twitter, online ad firm Federated Media, and sponsor AT&T -- was taken down this week at the insistence of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, ClickZ has learned.

The NCAA objected to the site's use of its trademarks and copyrights, according to an FM Publishing spokesperson. Team logos, the name "March Tweetness," and other language about the tournament are among the creative elements that may have violated the NCAA's intellectual property.

FM tore down on Monday, just days after its launch, and is now furiously at work on an approved version of the site. Meanwhile the URL is redirecting to a simple Twitter Search result page filled with recent Twitter messages referencing the final four teams: Michigan State, Connecticut, North Carolina and Villanova.

FM said the new site will launch in time for Saturday's semifinals. The changes may include a new name and URL, in which event the MarchTweetness address will be forwarded.

"We're working with NCAA to make sure that when we get the site back up, they get proper recognition and [satisfaction] with how the tournament is represented within the site," said the spokesperson, Matthew DiPietro. "The NCAA is a large organization with lots of different interests. They have to play it by the book, because they have a large number of people they need to keep happy."

The list of parties NCAA must please includes official sponsors like Pontiac and Coca-Cola Zero, which each enjoy an exclusive presence on the bracket, broadcast, or whatever other corner of the tournament they've negotiated for. FM said the NCAA's concerns had more to do with the use of its trademarks than with the attachment of AT&T as sponsor. DiPietro expects AT&T will remain attached to the site.

The throttling of "March Tweetness" is remarkable in part because it comes so early in Twitter's monetization efforts. It was only the second project for which Twitter has received ad-related revenue. The first was a Microsoft-sponsored aggregation of Twitter activity by business executives, called ExecTweets, that was also handled by Federated Media.

Twitter lent its support to both initiatives, by consulting with FM on their creation and by linking to them from a small box on its homepage. Last week Twitter indicated it would take steps to disclose when it received payment as part of those links.

"It's important to remember that MarchTweetness and ExecTweets are literally first of their kind programs done in concert with Twitter," said DiPietro. "It's frankly never been done before. A lot of this stuff is very experimental. There are kinks that are getting worked out."

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Zachary Rodgers

Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects. 

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