Sam, Spike and Chuck Return for More Capital One March Madness

Seven spots, including one with Gladys Knight

This road trip's a pip!

Longtime Capital One March Madness pitchmen Spike Lee, Charles Barkley and Samuel L. Jackson head to Indianapolis for the NCAA men's basketball tournament in ads breaking nationwide today.

NBA legends Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and sportscaster Jim Nantz make appearances. So does soul diva Gladys Knight, with Lee, Barkley and Jackson standing in for her iconic backup singers, known as the Pips, in the spot below:

NCAA - All Aboard | Capital One

Last year, of course, live sports ground to a halt amid pandemic concerns. With the NCAA tournament canceled, Capital One benched its beloved March Madness-themed commercials, after featuring Lee, Barkley and Jackson in the series since 2015.

The financial services giant had, however, already shot footage for 2020 of Knight and the intrepid trio aboard a "Midnight Train to Georgia," where the tourney would've been held. For 2021, the team repurposed that footage as a dream sequence—with Charles' dance moves the stuff of nightmares. As for Spike's footwork, let's just say the man's a great filmmaker.

All told, Lee directed seven zippy, zany commercials, developed by Capital One lead agency GSD&M and its predecessor, DDB.

Old-school fans might appreciate the Jackson 5 tribute that closes the :45 above, with "Goin' Back to Indiana" heralding this year's path to the Final Four. (Sam may not be one of those Jacksons, but dude's still a funky frontman!)

In separate installments, Magic and Bird inspire a highlight reel of verbal and visual puns:

NCAA - It’s Like Magic | Capital One
NCAA - Birdwatching | Capital One

Now that's some cuckoo birdplay.

We also get kids playing pint-size versions of the main trio, Chuck reclining in a tech-tastic "Barkleylounger," and cheesy goat humor—not G.O.A.T., sorry, Round Mound:

NCAA - First Time | Capital One
NCAA - Barkleylounger | Capital One
NCAA - Everytime | Capital One

Ultimately, the guys arrive in Annapolis, 615 miles from Indianapolis, because phonic humor:

NCAA - Annapolis | Capital One

"We know we aren't the only ones excited to have March Madness games back in action this season," says Capital One chief brand officer Marc Mentry. "As official sponsors for the past 10 years, this one feels extra special."

Indeed, the work seems bigger and sillier than ever. Hopefully, it signals a speedy return to normal in the coming months, with the pandemic in our rear-views, and virbant vistas ahead.

"Sam, Spike and Chuck are legends in their own right and certainly don’t need anyone else to make these commercials great," GSD&M senior vice president, managing director Nancy Ryan tells Muse. "But something special does happen when you drop an outsider into their world. It keeps it fun for them, but also sets this expectation with the audience of 'What is Capital One going to do next?'"

"So, just when you think it’s going to be another funny March Madness commercial, boom! Magic Johnson literally pops up, or a longform musical number with Gladys Knight," she says.

Agency SVP, group creative director Ryan Carroll believes one campaign concept could have some legs IRL.

"We think there is a lot of fun to be had with the Barkleylounger," he says. "Who’s to say this chair can’t live on and make its way to the stadium once fans can start attending tournament games again?"


"Midnight Train" - DDB and GSD&M
"It's Like Magic," "First Time, "Barkleylounger" - GSD&M
"Bird Watching," "Every Time," "In the Annapolis" - DDB

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