March Madness is a three-week collegiate basketball tournament in which the winner is crowned the NCAA national champion. Since the tournament’s establishment in 1939, the schedule has grown from an eight-team finale with limited coverage to a 68-team media giant, featuring broadcasts over four networks (CBS, TNT, TBS and TruTV) and numerous online streams.
In 2011, the consulting company Challenger Gray & Christmas noted that U.S. companies could waste as much $1.8 billion on unproductive wages during the March Madness schedule. The figure was based on 58.3 million people participating in brackets, with each person devoting 20 minutes watching games and focusing on their pools. Challenger Gray also noted that wider access to coverage via smartphones and tablets could significantly increase workplace distractions, estimating that total online viewership during work hours may reach at least 8.4 million hours.
Tournament expansion has proved to be a successful strategy for the NCAA, as March Madness passed the $1 billion ad revenue mark in 2012, making it the highest grossing sporting showcase of all time.
However, March Madness doesn’t have to mean lost revenue for businesses. There are definite ways to take advantage of the hype of the tournament as well. If there is one constant business owners can take away from the March Madness spectacle, it’s that people will be flocking to bars and lounges across the country in order to watch the games. Businesses can differentiate themselves from competition and capitalize on this phenomenon by developing a March Madness-themed marketing campaign.
Here Study Breaks, a leading college media entertainment company, presents strategies for businesses (particularly bars, restaurants and college bars) to implement to capture the potential of March Madness by integrating it into their marketing plan.
Marketing March Madness
Create Custom Tournament Pools
Tournament pools are to March Madness what Fantasy Football is to the NFL. They supply the viewer with a “game within the game,” dissolving team loyalty by creating a personalized investment (along with the opportunity to win a prize).
Contrary to Fantasy Football customs, a tournament bracket can be customized to fit any tournament format. If one is looking for an increased engagement, creating daily, online, or full-fledged tournament brackets can be one of the most effective ways to reach out to March Madness fans. Holding a March Madness contest with an amazing prize on offer is a great way to engage fans and customers and grow an audience.
Create Social Media Pools
No matter what one’s March Madness marketing concept involves, social media should be used as an integral piece of the puzzle. That being said, if one is to do nothing other than post content encouraging a call-to-action to select games, creating a tournament pool with one’s fan page “followers” can be a great kick-start to tournament festivities. The possibility of winning a prize is always effective when dealing with college students, but aside from engagement perks, a viewer is much more likely to visit the establishment that’s hosting the competition. If one like-gates entry into the pool—meaning that to submit their bracket, the participant must “like” the business’s Facebook page—it’s also a sure way to gain Facebook fans.
Run Daily Tournament Pools
Creating daily tournament pools is a strategy best left to marketers who feel the need to go ” above and beyond” the normal call of duty. Assuming one has already has established a “big pool,” complete with an end prize, they can break down daily sections of the bracket to gain the attention of viewers who are in-house.
To start, one needs to break down the bracket into sections complete only with a certain day’s set of games. After one has figured out which sections one wants to put in play, they can promote the format either to social media followers or actual customers. The person with the best bracket within the allotted time space wins a small prize—i.e., for a restaurant or bar, this might be free drinks, appetizers etc. (Be sure to include tie-breaker statistics such as final score predictions.) This is a great way to maximize the profit possibilities of the tournament on a day-to-day basis, especially if one requires customers to be present to win. It also gives basketball fans something to be excited about every day of the tournament, focusing on the fun they can have every step of the way (at this establishment, particularly), rather than the ultimate goal of a perfect bracket.
An added bonus is that by awarding someone a freebie, when they come in to pick it up or redeem the offer, odds are they’ll end up sticking around and spending more money—and, as college students tend to travel in packs, they’ll probably bring their friends, who will purchase things as well.
Promote a Team
The expansion to 68 teams has made the odds of one’s local team gaining entry higher than ever before. Picking one team and promoting them throughout their tournament run can be an easy way to turn one’s business into a “team headquarters” for fans, where they’ll flock to watch the game with fellow supporters. Giving away swag to fans for things such as team wins, the best team-themed paraphernalia, etc. is a surefire way to root oneself within the collegiate culture. After all, if there’s one thing college students like as much as sports, it’s free stuff.
And if tournament hopes are dashed with elimination, one can bet that their establishment will be the place where fans go to drown their sorrows together.