March Madness and Marketing Implications

It’s that time of the year again… March Madness!


For those of you who are less familiar with the term, it is also known as the annual NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament. The term was coined after the crazy frenzy fans get into as they cheer for their favorite team to win the national championship for college basketball. March Madness is the second largest sporting event in the nation, right after the NFL Playoffs according to an article written by Raisa. So what does this mean?

This means that March Madness is also the time for social media madness and advertising madness. Just last year, the national TV advertising spending amounted to $1.13 billion, up 1.5% from the prior year. “As of 1 week ago, advertisement inventory related to March Madness was 95% sold out across TV and online platforms.” Just like the Super Bowl, March Madness fans are constantly connected to the TV and every social media platform to keep up with updates and show off their team spirit.

According to research, searches for March Madness occur as early as January all the way to April. The searches range from basketball scores to brackets to basketball recruiting as the season starts and ends.

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This means that advertisers must adapt to the different searches by changing their content or keywords. Companies also have to keep up with what happens in the actual games, as big scores or wins can be potential moments for fan engagement and advertisement opportunities. Companies must deliver real-time marketing (fresh new content) throughout March Madness.

One company that has does this well is Buffalo Wild Wings, as they call themselves “The Official Hangout for March Madness”. Buffalo Wild Wings uses all social media platforms to reach fans. This year, they have created a series of video advertisements, which can obviously be found on Youtube, that they will air during “relevant” times during March Madness. “Each one is similarly designed to highlight the difference in experiences fans encounter enjoying the game at home compared to visiting a Buffalo Wild Wings location. Those experiences, B-Dubs says, will include comedic #WingWisdom on things like the proper way to fill out a tournament bracket, the Sweet 16, bandwagon fans, overtime, and the finals.” They also employ their hashtag tactics (#WingWisdom and #Wingvite) throughout all their social media sites to make content easily sharable and clickable.

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Given that there are 68 teams that compete, by individually targeting different teams and their fans, companies can drastically increase brand awareness. Nike is a great example of analyzing and realizing their different audience members. In 2013 they came out with ads that targeted each school, such as the image below. Other great examples of their ads for different schools can be found here. enhanced-buzz-1529-1363702631-15

But of course you might have read through all this so far and thought, “What about the brackets?!” As many of you know, it is nearly impossible to create the exact bracket. “A task that has never been done and some say have odds as high as 1 in 9.2 quintillion.” But what makes the brackets such a marketable event is that companies can either create a spin-off of the bracket challenge to market their own products or create giveaways and prizes for the best brackets submitted. Below are a few examples of the different types of companies using this tactic.

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I think one important note to remember though, is that companies should remain neutral in their advertisements or they may lose support from certain fans. If companies show bias towards certain teams or a certain team, they may be put under social media scrutiny and may even receive heavy backlash from fans.

What I found most interesting through my research is that one website, Prime Visibility, analyzed Social Media conversations across Twitter & Facebook throughout the 2014 & 2015 college basketball season to help make their bracket picks. “Whichever team had the highest volume of positive mentions on Social Media throughout the entire season won their respective matchup.” Below is the bracket pictured on their website. I’m interested to see how their bracket does and if using social media can help predict the future wins!


Which companies do you think do a good job with advertising during March Madness and why?

But most importantly, what does your bracket look like and who do you think will win this year’s national championship title?



  1. @xoxohz love your topic! I’m a huge basketball fan so March Madness is one of my favorite times of the year. To me, it seems like March Madness gets the most advertising attention than any other event on the social media outlets that I follow simply because of the high volume of games in such a short period of time. The coverage is insane. I guess I never thought about it in terms of the marketing and advertising opportunities that it presents like the Super Bowl for some reason. I definitely agree about how well Buffalo Wild Wings capitalizes on March Madness. I actually was at a Bdubs (not sure if that’s what east coast people refer to Buffalo Wild Wings as but that’s their nickname in the midwest) for Selection Sunday last weekend. I think that that Prime Visibility bracket is extremely intriguing! You can never guess all the upsets (hence the Madness), however that bracket is faring significantly better than mine so far…

  2. The other night my roommate told me that on Last Week Tonight they said that March Madness makes more than the Super Bowl in advertising. This stunned me so as always, I pulled out my iphone and googled it. Low and behold in 2013, March Madness did. Now the SB reclaimed it in 2014 but wow. Obviously when you think about that and how long and how invested so many people are, its a great choice for advertising. While I haven’t seen any of the BWW ads before tonight, they provide a great way to attract such a wide range from those new or not big on the event to those who get great use of the live web feeds while in class or at work. I think it’s safe to say this year after the first few days that we will probably not have a perfect bracket yet again.

  3. Great post. I did a blog for MIT-SMR a year or so ago talking about the very importance of maintaining a neutral (or at least sportsmanlike) tone on social, because fans of both sides are your followers.

  4. Interesting post, like @theochaps I eagerly anticipate March Madness each year. There is no other venue like it in sports, and judging by the advertising and social media attention it gets, it is clear many other people feel the same way. When you say it is the second largest sporting event in the nation, what exactly do you mean by that – revenue, ad sales, viewers? I’m just curious. I think the tournament is an unbelievable opportunity for savvy brands/companies to advertise on and utilize social media. One very powerful instance of this that comes to mind is when a huge upset happens. If say, a #2 seed is upset by a #15 for instance, that immediately trends on Twitter and is all anyone talks about until the lower seed team’s run is over. Also, the Prime Visibility bracket you found is awesome. It is a cool use of crowd-sourcing what people are saying on social – certainly serves to show there are seemingly endless possibilities to the insight firms can gain from monitoring their names/products on social as well.

  5. I look forward to March Madness every year. The buzz in the months and weeks leading up to it both on TV and among my friends is always exciting. The amount of money that goes into advertising is crazy. I find it incredible that 95% of the ads were already sold out at the time of the article. This gives CBS and its partner stations the ability to raise prices even higher next year because they know companies want the exposure!!

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