How Brands Use March Madness In Their Favor
While professional sports events such as the Super Bowl or World Series continue to break records with their massive reach each year, it can be easy to minimize the success of sports marketing around collegiate or nonprofessional sports events. This is exactly the case of March Madness; a three week, 68 team regional men’s college basketball competition which has become the second most popular showcase for advertisers following the NFL playoffs. But why is March Madness marketing so popular and effective, and how do brands transform their tactics to fit in with these three important weeks? Let’s discuss some of the ways that brands use March Madness and other sports marketing techniques in their favor each year.
Since March Madness isn’t merely a one-night event, many brands have a huge opportunity for sustained, longer-term retail marketing that changes as the championship bracket updates. During the three weeks March Madness takes place, every major grocery store typically experiences major increases in sales across certain party items. For instance, 2017 data collected by Yahoo showed that chicken wing sales raised 24% higher than days prior to March Madness, while pizza sales jumped 17% higher. Across most brands that supply sports equipment or party favors, it’s not abnormal to see packaging specifically for the three weeks of March. Whether it be the inclusion of green colors, player images, or catchphrases generated from the event such as “Final Four,” any brand that edits their retail marketing strategy to correlate with March Madness will most likely experience heightened attention.
One of the most impressive and organic ways that March Madness marketing prevails is through the innovations of social media, especially considering how much we all use our smartphones. Through social media profiles of sports teams or broadcasters, users can learn new information about their picks, as well as place bets on the fly. Being able to monitor your games in the palm of your hands and converse with other sports aficionados online is an essential part of the subculture March Madness has created. Every few scrolls a sponsored ad is seen, so the longer fans can stay engaged on your profiles, the better chance they have of clicking. The NCAA understands the importance of March Madness marketing quite well, as they execute elaborate challenges, hashtags, and giveaways each year via their social media pages, garnering over 2 million followers across all mediums.
But social media isn’t the only place where brands have decided to reach March Madness fans. In a genius move, more and more online video games are involving seasonal or sports marketing in their content. Some multiplayer games have online hubs where players can purchase different kinds of in-game equipment such as armor, player skins, and rare utility items. As the months change, the equipment offered, as well as the in-game graphics, change accordingly. For example, NBA 2k19 allows users to create their own brackets, purchase limited time uniforms, and create simulations to see how certain teams will play against other teams. Not only are these additions great ways to keep players online and entertained, but they’re also tools to help users select better bracket choices- a great incentive to engage.
As you can see, through digital and retail marketing, the hype around March Madness becomes half of the fun surrounding the three-week event. For sports fans or lovers of the competitive spirit nationally, March Madness is an amazing series that brands can use in their favor to expand their audiences and increase engagement.