March Madness. A month filled with college basketball Cinderella stories and hype surrounding the college basketball national championships. As most teams hope to be crowned National Champions, marketers are hoping to cash in on the 10-30 million viewers. According to Kantar Media, the March Madness tournament is second only to the NFL in terms of ad spending. The NFL has the highly coveted Big Game that collects upwards of $5 Million per 30 second ad spot and the AFC/NFC championship games which have an average $2 Million per 30 second ad spot. The college basketball championships collect around $1.6 Million per 30 second ad spot. This means that the college basketball championships out-perform the NBA and MLB championships, along with the MLB all-star game and college football championship. Of course this isn’t just a US phenomenon, all around the world marketers use sporting events to reach a large audience. ESPN estimates that the FIFA world cup attracts around 200 million viewers per game and close to 1 billion people worldwide for the championship game. The cricket championships also reach around 1 billion viewers. The price per ad depends highly on the audience that is reached. The FIFA world cup had 8 sponsors who paid $75 million each and collectively they held 451 30 second ad spots. The Olympics in comparison closes in around $750 thousand per 30 second ad spot. Again, this depends highly on the event and time of day for the ad. Event marketing is a highly expensive task but can lead to larger brand awareness and increased sales.
A good example of this is Buffalo Wild Wings. Throughout the years Buffalo Wild Wings has been deemed the ‘Overtime Kings.’ The company began running ads claiming they are the reason for overtime in sports back in 2011. They bet big on March Madness and in 2014 it paid off when 5 games in the first round went into overtime. Buffalo Wild Wings paid for the ads that immediately aired after all games went into overtime. The ad begins with “Welcome to Overtime” and proceeds to claim it was the reason for it and any other reason is just ludicrous. Years after this event Buffalo Wild Wings still gets increased activity on their Facebook and Twitter pages anytime a sports event goes into overtime.
Although not everyone can shell out the cash needed to get a commercial, companies can benefit through the use of social media campaigns. It’s important to understand your customer and how to reach them based on which event you plan on marketing for. In this case, March Madness, fans love their Alma Mater or they want to see their bracket do well. Interactive polls, deals, fan pics, and reactions to the games can increase engagement. A great way to interact with your audience and have some fun is to create your own bracket with your products. Reese’s Candy is known for their candy brackets where they are often seen winning the championship. However, you can make a bracket where readers vote on their favorite novel like Entertainment Weekly. In 2013, Entertainment Weekly created an interactive online poll where their readers would vote for which novel would move on to the next rounds of their ‘Novel Bracket Game.’ This simple idea creates engaged readers. Although it doesn’t necessarily advertise a product, it gets reader to interact and share their opinions. Even if you or your company aren’t necessarily basketball fans you can still use the tournament to gain business. Pick your local school that's in the tournament and root for them. The hometown favorite is something everyone can get behind. Regardless what your approach is, understand that event marketing is only going to get bigger and more interactive. Just make sure your company is well equipped and prepared to cash in on the madness.