Auto dealer practically begs for ‘Marsh Madness’ controversy

Most businesses would be too timid to mention the word “madness” in any March ad campaign.

After all, the all-powerful NCAA has been known to fire off a cease-and-desist letter or two to any business that tries to conjure up the NCAA’s trademarked March Madness moniker — the well-known nickname for the national college basketball tournament.

But not longtime car salesman Jim Marsh.

The 80-year-old Kia dealership owner practically pokes the NCAA bear by rolling out an annual “Marsh Madness” ad campaign every spring.

Eleven years of Marsh Madness and not a peep from the suits who run college sports in this country.

Marsh to NCAA: Bring it on.

“I’d love for them to send me a letter,” Marsh said, as the country prepares for the start of the NCAA hoops tourney next week. “It would be great publicity. Wouldn’t that be neat.”

Last year, the ad agency for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority had proposed a campaign for March titled, “The Madness Begins Here,” to hype the NCAA tourney betting frenzy that lures waves of college hoops fans to Las Vegas sports books. But the agency, R&R Partners, never officially launched the campaign because lawyers thought it could be an infringement on NCAA’s well-known phrase.

But Marsh, who started his first car dealership in 1971, has no such fear.

The Marsh Madness spots run on Las Vegas TV stations with “madness” practically written across the screen.

Someone mentioned Marsh Madness 11 years ago, and “it just rolled off my lips,” Marsh said.

“It’s a play on words and it seems to work for us,” he said.

It seems to work for others, too, around the country.

There is a Marsh Madness run in Palo Alto, Calif.; a Marsh Madness Festival in Indiana; a Marsh Madness environmental project in Massachusetts; and a Marsh Madness fishing guide business in Louisiana.

The NCAA could not be reached for comment.

Alan Snel can be contacted at asnel@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273. Follow @BicycleManSnel on Twitter.