Marketing Madness: March Madness and the Marketing World

The Super Bowl has met a contender when it comes to dominating the media for a sporting event. It’s that time of the month for the NCAA March Madness Tournament. It’s only fitting that at the same time, it’s marketing madness. March Madness advertisers spent close to $1.2 billion last year alone, making it a cash cow for brands and advertisers to promote their products. So what has made March Madness one of the most talked about amateur sporting events?

It could have something to do with the fact it is a single-elimination tournament, where teams can be knocked out after one game and their season is over. This means we are constantly invested in how games are turning out. It also means that teams who you never predicted to win, have the ability to surprise us all and take down a nation favorite. It has happened before! Remember in 2013, Georgetown and Florida Gulf Coast?

Making the coveted bracket is the most engaging aspect of March Madness. You don’t have to know college basketball to fill out a bracket. The unpredictability is what keeps such a widespread viewership invested in the frenzy. We’ve even developed a science to it known as “bracketology”. If you follow March Madness you are glued to your bracket and await Selection Sunday so you can begin making it. Even the President has taken to this culture in developing his every year!

espn front row

Image via ESPN Front Row

We also love to watch because the young super stars could be the next LeBron or Kobe. When you follow a team or player from the beginning, it’s hard to not watch and become invested in their basketball season.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association produces amateur competition but the teams competing are far from amateur. This just describes the fact these student-athletes are not professional, thereby not generating any income from playing basketball. This makes this non-professional tournament the perfect spot for brands to adapt marketing campaigns.

Let’s take a look at some brands that participated in marketing madness in 2015:

Buffalo Wild Wings, who markets itself as “the official hangout of NCAA March Madness,” launched #WingWisdom. The campaign is a series of commercials featuring comedian Steve Rannazzisi and the different experiences fans encounter while enjoying the games at BWW versus watching from home.

wild wings via mediapost

Image via MediaPost

Capital One surprised us with the hilarious “The Road To The Final Four,” which follows Charles Barkley, Samuel L. Jackson, and Spike Lee through various scenarios traveling to the games. Check out this commercial where the trio is headed for a game with the ultimate destination being Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

According to NCAA this year “corporate champions” and “corporate partners” include Reese’s, Bing, Coca-Cola, Buick, and of course Capital One and Buffalo Wild Wings, along with many more. There is a growing opportunity for these brands to tap into social media and use this to promote their brand to a large audience throughout the tournament.

Twitter will most likely be the most profitable platform to use. It gives the opportunity for brands to live-tweet and be right in the action of the tournament along with consumers. So, you can build a rapport on the fact that 11.3 million people watch the games. Official tournament hashtags got the most usage during the event: #MarchMadness had more than 88,000 mentions, #Final Four had more than 66,000 mentions, and #ncaa had nearly 32,000 mentions.

If you’re looking to keep up with the madness, follow these accounts on Twitter!








Another social media app that could be a game-changer this March is Snapchat. This app also allows for real time accounts of users experiences. Users are able to watch fans react to the games, whether it be from the crowd at the venue, from those watching at home, or any college basketball fan in general.


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Good luck to all the bracketers out there! Stay up to date with all trends in the marketing world by checking out our other blogs!