Conversations about the “first four in and first four out” have started dominating the sports world, and that can only mean one thing – March Madness is here.
With the arrival of the 21-day, 67-game NCAA college basketball tournament, brands and advertisers alike are gearing up to make sure their brands and clients are ready to take advantage of one of the largest (and longest) cultural events that takes place each year.
While the NCAA represents amateur athletics, March Madness is big business. In fact, according to Kantar Media, the NCAA’s post-season tournament generated $1.13 billion in ad revenue during the 2014 tournament. That ranks just second to the NFL’s post-season playoffs, which came in at $1.23 billion over only 11 games – yes, that includes the Super Bowl.
With Turner Sports and CBS Sports taking the lead in broadcasting all 67 games via cable and streaming on NCAA.com/March-Madness, every moment in every game becomes an opportunity for brands to take advantage of trending conversations. However, unlike the Super Bowl, GRAMMYs, or Oscars, March Madness spans 21 days, seven rounds (from First Four to the NCAA Championship Game) and 14 cities – for real-time marketing, that’s a challenge.
In order to leverage the conversations around March Madness and generate brand awareness on social media, the biggest question a brand needs to ask is: “Is March Madness relevant to my brand?” If it is not, go ahead and kick back and watch the drama unfold. If it is relevant to your brand and your audience, here are some tips for being successful on social media for your brands come tournament time.
1. Become a sponsor or don’t say, “March Madness.”
The biggest rule for brands to know going into the NCAA tournament is that the terms “March Madness” and “Final Four” are copyrighted by the NCAA and enforced heavily – especially in regard to advertisers. Brands pay to the tune of $35 million per year for the privilege of aligning themselves with the NCAA. Therefore, if your brand is not a corporate sponsor, you cannot mention “March Madness” or “Final Four” in any advertisements.
Don’t worry, however, there are other ways.
2. Develop a tournament-themed campaign based on consumer insights.
According to Fortune, the value of decreased worker productivity during March Madness is estimated to be upwards of $1.2 billion. Playing off this, Buffalo Wild Wings created a series of March Madness ads around excuses for getting out of work.
Additionally, Bud Light continued its #UpForWhatever campaign, based around consumer insights and learnings, for NCAA tournament viewing parties and tweeted out this image during the Elite Eight.
All of these tweets and campaigns were highly successful because of insights and relevancy to the topic – all without using the terms March Madness or Final Four.
3. Be ready for the moment.
Real-time marketing during March Madness can be a challenge. Having an always-on strategy is great, but for 21 straight days, the NCAA is a different beast. While it is a challenge for social media marketers to be ready at a moment’s notice, last-second buzzer beaters, Cinderella stories and bracket-busting upsets create opportunities that real-time marketers dream of. These are just some examples of brands that were ready to go after some crazy moments during the last few tournaments.
Sorry about busting your bracket @BarackObama... We have room on our bandwagon if you're interested— UConn Huskies (@UConnHuskies) March 30, 2014
However your brand decides to attack the tournament, be relevant, be ready and be sure to avoid the term “March Madness.”
By Cory Brinson, Associate Director – Social Media