As many of you know, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament kicked off earlier today, bringing 64 universities together from across the country for one common goal: to cut down the nets and hoist the championship trophy. However, the implications on business and marketing go way beyond the hardwood. Most people aren’t aware that March Madness has become one of the most popular platform in sports for advertisers, even surpassing the playoffs of major sports such as football, basketball, and baseball. According to the Huffington Post, the NCAA has been able to translate this popularity into a 14 year, $10.8 billion television contract with CBS, TNT, TBS, and truTV. This year also aims to offer the most seamless digital experience in history, allowing fans to stream every single game live on their laptops and mobile devices through either ncaa.com or cbssports.com.
The effects on social and digital marketing caused by this immense popularity are huge. The March Madness page on Facebook has over 909,000 fans, and more than 452,000 followers on Twitter. Also, before the tournament even kicked off, March Madness had 787,000 searches on YouTube. Each of these platforms present an excellent opportunity for companies to market their products and services in high-traffic advertising slots.
According to Akamai, a web technology firm, five of the ten busiest peak minutes of internet traffic ever were related to social and digital marketing in connection to the NCAA tournament.
Coke Zero has sponsored a “Brain Bracket,” which asks fans to vote online and submit their best ideas to improve the tournament. Linda Cronin, director of interactive media, says the company is “empowering fans to shake up the status quo in college basketball.”
MillerCoors released the mobile app “Tip ‘n Spin” right before the NCAA tournament several years ago, in conjunction with its March Hoops marketing campaign, in an effort to boost daily interaction with consumers.
Applebee’s offered $1 million to a fan who picks the winner of every tournament game via its Facebook page.
Papa John’s offered a $2,000 shopping spree and free pizza for an entire year for up to five winners of its In The House Hoops Sweepstakes.
Lastly, Captain Morgan offered a free trip to Las Vegas by entering a sweepstakes on its Facebook page, which it advertised through nationally televised NCAA tournament games.
The reasoning behind why the NCAA tournament is such a brilliant social and digital marketing opportunity has a very logical explanation. There are 64 teams (68 if you include the play in game) competing for the championship. This draws a fan base from nearly every state in America, which provides a diverse, yet very large audience for companies to target in their advertisements. In comparison, a playoff game in any other sports has only two fan bases watching religiously, and while there are naturally plenty of others watching because they are nationally televised, it still offers a much narrower target audience.
As a result of the massive audience, giant corporations have lined up to sponsor the 2016 NCAA tournament. The list includes Capital One, AT&T, Coca-Cola, All State, Amazon, Buffalo Wild Wings, Reese’s, LG, Lowe’s, and numerous others.
With the advancements in technology and the addition of methods to access sports and watch NCAA tournament games, the number of companies choosing to market and advertise during this time of year, and the overall amount of money invested will continue to grow exponentially in the coming years.