March Madness and marketing

As the national sports spotlight turns to college basketball, with its buzzer-beaters, office pools, and cinderella stories, Warren Buffett offers a fairy tale of his own: $1 billion for a perfect bracket. That's a perfect bracket — not just the best in the contest — so you have to pick more than five dozen games right. But that's also billion with a "B." So why not take a shot?

I'll tell you why: you've got virtually no chance of winning (the rules note that you are approximately a 9-quintillion-to-1 underdog; yes, that's quintillion with a "Q"), and you've got lots to lose — namely, a bunch of private information.

I'm a big college basketball fan (go Devils!) so naturally when I heard about the contest, I wanted to try my luck. But when I tried to register, alarm bells started to go off for me. Quicken Loans is co-sponsoring the contest, and wanted a bunch of information about me (how old am I? do I own a home?). Yahoo is involved too and its fine print sought my permission to text me ads.

This perceptive article on Slate has more about the trade-offs.

Bottom line: stick with your office pool this year (where by "office pool," I mean, of course, for legal reasons, a friendly, non-remunerative competition in your office for bragging rights).