The NCAA’s annual college basketball championship tournament gets bigger and bigger every year. Don’t let that amateur college status fool you, March Madness is big business; last year’s tournament generated $1.5 billion in advertising revenue. To put that in perspective, last year’s Super Bowl generated $220 million. With a hyper level of competition, brands are clamoring to break through the clutter. As the UConn Huskies take on the Kentucky Wildcats in tonight’s championship game, let’s cut right to the chase – what are the biggest takeaways for marketers this year?
“Go Big or Go Home” Works
Before March Madness even kicked off, you were in the majority if you were crossing your fingers that your risky picks added up to a perfect bracket and a $1 billion score in the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge with Yahoo! Sports.Meanwhile, Quicken Loans was likely lapping up the opportunity to be part of a traditional and social news story that had longer legs than any shocking in-tournament upset.
Jay Farner, President and CMO of Quicken Loans, told USA Today that the story had received more than 1 billion traditional and social media impressions days after the tournament began. Even more, brand awareness increased by 300% over the previous month of February (full report here). Even if it meant sharing the spotlight with Warren Buffet, Quicken Loans proved that a “go big or go home” stunt can pay major dividends.
Move over Ellen, the Selfie has hit March Madness
Unless you’re living under a rock, you know that selfies are all the rage right now and March Madness has been no exception. With big wins and heartbreaking losses, the tournament is the perfect breeding ground for emotional moments caught on camera. From University of Tennessee’s #Sweet16Selfie to the Richard Sherman/Condoleezza Rice #StanfordSelfie, you weren’t anyone if you weren’t snapping a pic for March Madness.
When the University of Dayton upset Syracuse University in an epic 55-53 victory, Dayton president Daniel Curran crowd surfed with celebrating students (if you missed it, see the highlights on Business Insider. It was incredible). Dayton students took photos and videos of themselves with President Curran crowd surfing. Collegiate athletic programs also jumped on the selfie bandwagon. University of Louisville started the #CardinalSelfie, encouraging students and fans to share their photos for a chance to win a basketball jersey.
Real-time Moments: Big Wins and Major Upsets
Social media regulars know by now that early successes with real-time marketing has opened the door for brands to barge in with less flattering attempts to get in on the action. Still, there are some that manage to get it right.
Here are some of the best:
— BurgerKing (@BurgerKing) March 21, 2014
Burger King tapped the biggest theme we can count on for March Madness year after year. #BracketBusted
— Nike Basketball (@nikebasketball) March 17, 2013
Nike got smart with its promoted tweets early on by using vivid imagery and creative copy to make a statement. See how other brands succeeded (or quite frankly, didn’t) with promoted tweets on AdWeek.
Sorry about busting your bracket @BarackObama… We have room on our bandwagon if you’re interested
— UConn Huskies (@UConnHuskies) March 30, 2014
With the Championship on the horizon this evening with unexpected contenders UConn and Kentucky, we know we’ll be glued to both first and second screens along the way. What are the biggest trends you’ve noticed during this year’s tournament?