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How Can Media Buyers Prepare Their March Madness Bracket?


It’s NCAA season again, which means gearing up for March Madness marketing. Traditionally, sports fans eagerly anticipate live games and real-time updates on social media. However, this sports season isn’t just for athletic or sports-related brands anymore. It’s a prime opportunity for all brands to shine. This is your chance to showcase your brand and be among the advertisers making the most of this opportunity.

Strategies for Dominating March Madness Marketing on Social Media

Have you completed your March Madness 2024 marketing checklist (bracket) yet? As sports enthusiasts gear up for NCAA action, social media engagement skyrockets during the tournament. In a March 2023 survey, 64% of avid sports fans planning to watch the NCAA tournament expressed intent to stay connected via social media. As a media buyer, your mission is to capture the attention of these dedicated fans, even amid the excitement of each round and individual game.

Similar to the buzz generated by Super Bowl social media campaigns, advertising during major sporting events extends beyond traditional sports brands and athletic wear. With the right strategies and insights, any brand can leverage March Madness marketing tactics to increase engagement and visibility. It’s all about understanding your audience and employing effective media buying strategies to succeed during this thrilling season.

During last year’s NCAA tournament, advertising revenue surged past $1 billion, with CBS and Turner Sports reporting complete inventory sell-outs. A significant boost in viewership accompanied this increase in revenue, which was particularly evident in the championship game between the Connecticut Huskies and the San Diego State Aztecs, which drew in 14.69 million viewers – a 13% increase from the previous year.

Given the substantial advertising costs during such high-profile events, many brands turn to social media platforms to maximize their ad spending and reach. 

To gain deeper insights into audience behavior and refine your March Madness marketing strategy, let’s take a closer look at the dynamics of each platform.

March Madness becomes an interactive spectacle, with users live-tweeting as the games unfold. Approximately 80% of #MarchMadness Tweets occurred during gameplay in 2022, generating over 44,000 tweets on the tournament’s first two days alone.

In 2023, as the games drew to a close, the total tweet count surged to 959,000. March 18 recorded the highest activity, with 108,490 tweets featuring the March Madness keyword.

As of now, March Madness 2024 content on TikTok has collectively amassed 5.9 million views.

During the 2023 March Madness marketing season, TikTok Now adjusted its daily posting prompts to coincide with the key highlights of March Madness games, aiming to enhance the presence of genuine college basketball content on the platform. This initiative marked a significant shift for TikTok, transitioning towards prioritizing live shows over merely curated game highlights and reaction videos.

However, it’s important to note that short-form videos showcasing game highlights and reactions will continue to be prevalent. Even now, content related to March Madness 2024 predictions, top picks, and research for betting on the NCAA tournament is already gaining traction.

Last year, various types of content garnered significant views throughout the March Madness season:

Related contentNumber of views
March Madness Results42.1 Million
March Madness Final Scores14.5 Million
Where Is March Madness 202311.9 Million
NCAA March Madness 20239.1 Million
2023 March Madness Bracket6 Million

YouTube TV revolutionized March Madness viewing last year by introducing “multiview” streaming just in time for the tournament. This innovative feature allows users to watch multiple games simultaneously on a split screen, selecting from pre-selected multi-game streams tailored to their sports preferences. Depending on their choice, viewers could simultaneously watch two, three, or four games, significantly enhancing their experience during the event.

The introduction of multiview streaming effectively addressed fans’ desire to catch multiple games on a single screen. This feature played a pivotal role in the March Madness trend, where a noticeable surge in video views aligned perfectly with the NCAA tournament’s key dates. This increase is evident in the activity on the NCAA’s March Madness YouTube channel, which regularly uploads content, including game highlights and match previews.

The channel leverages YouTube’s interactive features to engage fans, contributing to the spike in viewership. Moreover, the channel’s successful marketing efforts around college basketball, aimed at both attracting new viewers and retaining engaged audiences, are clearly demonstrated by the subscriber growth observed from February to April.

Get ready for the upcoming March Madness season, spanning from March 17 to April 8, featuring a total of 67 games. Mark your advertising calendar for the key dates:

March Madness Marketing Key Dates

Now that you’re familiar with the essential dates for your March Madness campaigns, have a look at these additional insights:

Audience Targeting

With 58.8 million female viewers watching the Super Bowl LVIII in 2024, a significant increase from the 9% recorded last year, it’s clear that the sports fandom is no longer exclusive to men. Female audiences accounted for 47.5% of the total viewership, marking the “highest composition ever.” Additionally, there was a substantial increase in younger demographics, with viewership numbers rising by 6% for the 12-17 age group and 10% for the 18-34 age group.

Simultaneously, interest and engagement in women’s tournaments have soared. In 2022, the women’s national tournament expanded its marketing partnerships, increasing from 14 sponsors and 22 advertisers to 15 sponsors and nearly 100 advertisers. Empowered by this support, female athletes showcased compelling performances, driving a 103% increase in viewership compared to previous years.

ESPN’s insights further illuminate the growing popularity of women’s basketball. The 2023 NCAA Women’s Tournament witnessed an uptick in viewer numbers, with the first round averaging 257,000 viewers – a 27% increase from the previous year. Moreover, the tournament set new records for ESPN, with several games surpassing 400,000 viewers and fans collectively watching over 4.7 billion minutes of women’s March Madness sports tournaments.

Furthermore, SponsorPulse’s data reveals that 61% of NCAA March Madness fans in the US are male, and 39% are from the female demographic. The tournament’s primary audience falls within the 35-44 age range, with 26% of US residents in this demographic engaging with the event, followed closely by 20% of individuals aged 25-35.

Winning Industries and Strategies

Certain industries, including quick-service restaurants (QSRs), sports bars, and beverage companies, have consistently demonstrated strong brand preference throughout the March Madness marketing season. These sectors capitalize on the excitement surrounding college basketball to create unique consumer experiences.

Limited-Time Offers

  • Incorporating limited-time offers into your marketing strategy can significantly boost engagement.
  • For instance, discounts for college students upon presenting their university IDs or offering raffle entries for coveted prizes like Final Four or championship game tickets can capture your audience’s attention and drive foot traffic.

Special Events

  • Hosting restaurant watch parties has become very popular during major sports events.
  • Restaurants can leverage the tournament’s popularity by organizing special events, such as bracket prediction contests leading to Selection Sunday. Participants could fill out brackets predicting the tournament’s outcome, with the owner of the winning bracket receiving incentives like a gift card to the restaurant or exclusive branded merchandise.

Lessons From Big Names On How To Promote A Brand During March Madness

Media buyers often draw inspiration from past campaigns to understand what works and what doesn’t. Whether you’re launching your first March Madness advertising campaign in 2024 or seeking fresh ideas, explore how major brands executed their strategies in this compilation of March Madness marketing case studies:

Nissan

Last year, Nissan took an innovative approach to March Madness marketing by introducing a road-themed advertising campaign. The campaign featured Nissan’s all-new electric Ariya car in commercials depicting people driving to the tournament alongside various college mascots.

In addition to their traditional marketing efforts, Nissan partnered with TikTok to create the “TikTok Now” campaign. This collaboration aimed to engage a younger audience by delivering tailored content through the popular social media platform.

The “TikTok Now” campaign was highly successful, with over 9 million views, and received more than 1.5 million likes. Moreover, Nissan reported a remarkable 150% increase in website traffic during their March Madness social media campaign, indicating a booming brand interest and engagement drive.

Buick

Buick’s commitment to female empowerment shines through its March Madness marketing initiatives during the 2023 Division One college hoops tournament.

#SeeHerGreatness Challenge 

This challenge, supported by talented women from various sports and fitness backgrounds, amplified Buick’s dedication to celebrating female achievements. In addition, Buick ran an equal number of paid ads in both the women’s and men’s NCAA tournaments. Their marketing endeavors were specifically designed to boost women’s sports and elevate the visibility of female athletes.

Buick’s activities also involved partnering with Dentsu Creative to develop TV and online ads featuring prominent female college athletes like Aliyah Boston, Cameron Brink, Caitlin Clark, Azzi Fudd, and Kiki Rice. These ads not only spotlighted these athletes but also provided a platform for them to share their stories and inspire others.

Central to Buick’s campaign was the hero ad, titled ‘The Next: See Her Greatness,’ which sparked intrigue by asking, “Who will be the next great female athlete?” This compelling narrative drove viewers to Buick’s ‘See Her Greatness’ online platform, further promoting their mission to increase women’s visibility in sports and beyond.

Brands Excelling In March Madness Influencer Marketing

Nike

During March Madness, Nike took center stage with its influencer-led ‘NCAA Tourney Gear’ Collection, garnering a staggering total of 1.1 billion impressions. This collection featured a diverse range of college-branded apparel, allowing fans to proudly support their favorite teams. To amplify its reach, Nike collaborated with influencers like DJ Khaled, leveraging their massive social media following to promote the collection to a wider audience.

Wendy’s

Wendy’s launched #ForTheWendys, a Twitter event aimed at promoting their annual March Madness Pick ‘Em contest. By encouraging users to share their team picks using the hashtag, Wendy’s created a sense of community and anticipation. The campaign saw remarkable engagement, with #ForTheWendys generating approximately 1,000 interactions, including 934 likes, and reaching an impressive 4.35 million potential impressions from March 14 to 21.

wendys march madness pick em 2022

DraftKings

DraftKings made a splash with its expertly crafted betting promotions, attracting widespread attention and reaching up to 1.0 billion individuals. The brand launched two enticing offers—a daily fantasy offer and several free-to-play pools—available to participants in most states. 

To extend its reach even further, DraftKings partnered with social media influencers, including outlets like Barstool Sports, to connect with a broader audience.

Catch DraftKings in action this 2024 March Madness, showcasing a dynamic TikTok video ad featuring Nick Young, now at the Top 24% CTR spot among active March Madness TikTok ads.

2024 March Madness marketing by DraftKings - Nick Young feature

Mapping Out Your March Madness 2024 Marketing Plan

As you start crafting your March Madness 2024 marketing plan, remember that success lies in the details. By incorporating the creative and effective strategies outlined here, you’ll be well-equipped to navigate the excitement of this sports season while achieving your brand’s advertising goals. Keep in mind that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, so be sure to tailor your strategies to align with your brand’s unique identity and objectives.

If you have any questions or need assistance in strategizing for your March Madness advertising goals, don’t hesitate to reach out. Schedule a meeting with us, and together, we’ll not only navigate the sports season but also position your brand for success in the upcoming holiday seasons and beyond.

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