Mid-March hits and the madness begins. This is one of the best times of the year for college basketball and avid sports fans. Anything is possible. A number one seed can fall to an underdog, and often an unlikely contender can rise to the top of the ranks. The thrill of victory and agony of defeat keep viewers enthralled. Not only do sports enthusiasts benefit from the exciting nature of the NCAA tournament, but so do brands that utilize social media.
To start, let’s address why March Madness is prime time to utilize social media:
According to www.NCAA.com,
“The NCAA Tournament has grossed a record 166 million total social impressions across Twitter and Facebook, through the second Thursday [of the tournament] for a 36% increase over 2014.”
According to Neilsen, the 2015 NCAA tournament had its highest viewership in 22 years, averaging 11.3 million viewers total viewers.
According to CNN Money,
With such high levels of viewership, impressions, and social media usage, this creates a HUGE opportunity for brands to capitalize on the three-week period of March Madness. Social media is a quick and easy way for fans to view and discuss contents of basketball games.
There are two categories brands fall into when using March Madness to create engagement. They are 1.) Sponsors and 2.) Non-sponsors. Sponsors are those who are directly affiliated with the NCAA Tournament, and have more freedom when using terms associated with the tournament, such as “March Madness” or “Final Four”. Non-sponsors have to tiptoe around legal issues, but can still create interactions by creating associations through images and non- trademarked terms. This method requires creativity, but the brands can reap many benefits by associating themselves in the cultural buzz of March Madness.
Coke Zero is a sponsor of the NCAA Tournament that I feel did a fantastic job using March Madness to create engagement. Coke Zero launched its #OpenToTry campaign as the social companion to the brand’s larger “You Don’t Know It Till You’ve Tried It” campaign. The #OpenToTry campaign encourages college basketball fans to embrace rivalries within the tournament by being open to try becoming “fremenies”.
So how did Coke Zero do this?
Coke zero created a “Frenemies” jersey, and at events during the NCAA Tournament took pictures of fans on opposing teams together in the “Frenemies” jersey.
Coke Zero posted these photos as well as other graphics to their social media accounts. Fans, in turn, also posted the photos of themselves with opponents in the “Frenemies” jerseys. Coke zero also changed the cover photos of their Facebook and Twitter pages to feature the NCAA logo and associated tournament terms such as “Final Four”. Additionally, Coke zero created a “drinkable billboard” that dispensed cups of Coke Zero to consumers. Curious as to what this means? Well, here is the teaser.
The Billboard Coke came up out of a bottle and followed a straw that said “Taste It” in cursive to a dispenser on the opposite sides where fans could fill up a refreshing glass of Coke Zero. Not only did this generate a massive amount of buzz on social media as it was teased, but fans generated even more excitement as they posted about it on their social media pages. For instance, take this Coke Zero and basketball fan on Instagram who posted a photo with the drinkable Billboard:
On the same note as the drinkable billboard, Coke Zero had drink a drinkable rivalry contest as fans competed during the Final Four Concert to see who could drink a Coke Zero the fastest. However, this competition was done on their phones. Coke Zero selected “frenemies to compete against one another. The microphone on the smartphones was used as a straw, and the race was displayed on a big screen at the concert.
Coke Zero also created the first ever drinkable commercial that allowed fans to use the Shazam app during the ad to watch a Coke Zero be poured into a glass on their phone screen. As fans engaged with the advertisement, the app generated a mobile coupon for a free 20 oz Coke Zero at participating retail stores. All encompassing, this was the first ever drinkable campaign.
Businesses can take a lot away from Coke Zero’s campaign and social media. This begs the question then… What made Coke Zero’s campaign so successful? (Besides that it was the first drinkable campaign, of course.)
Coke Zero made their campaign very interactive with consumers. The generated a large amount of engagement, which led to consumers posting about the experiences with the brand’s campaign on their personal accounts.
2.) Multiple components
Coke Zero did not only have one interactive piece of their campaign, but multiple. They kept the surprises coming, and as a result, Coke Zero stayed top of mind.
3.) Leverage Your Resources
Coke Zero utilized their sponsorship with the NCAA Tournament. Coke Zero placed the NCAA logo on the images they created and reinforced this by posting profile images featuring these logos as well. Having the Coke Zero and NCAA logos side by side creates a strong association in the consumer’s mind.
Coke zero was extremely creative with the drinkable aspects of its campaign. Pushing your brand to explore uncharted territory, if done correctly, can make it stand out in a very crowded industry space.
Overall, I think Coke Zero did a phenomenal job utilizing March Madness to create social media engagement. Some might, in fact, call it a slam-dunk in the NCAA Tournament. Now after creating this post, I’m definitely #OpenToTry a Coke Zero right about now!