Maximizing March Madness: What Advertisers Need to Know
12 April 2019 • tvsquared
Marlessa Stivala,
Content Marketing Manager

Standalone live sports, such as the Super Bowl and World Series, are typically seen as major, must-see events that transcend culture, but understanding March Madness is a whole different ball game. While March Madness is certainly a comparable cultural event, its audience is often more fragmented since it involves multiple weeks, networks, teams and dayparts.

There’s arguably nothing more “mad” in the world of TV advertising than producing a strong creative that ultimately reaches the wrong audience, which is why it’s important for advertisers to make sure they are making the most strategic ad buys possible.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind, and use to your advantage, when advertising during March Madness:

  1. Embrace the Bracket

Filling out March Madness tournament brackets has become a phenomenon in and of itself. While this undoubtedly appeals to college basketball fanatics, more casual fans often engage as well due to its interactive, communal nature (such as the pervasiveness of the “office bracket”).

This high level of engagement from diehard fans and casual spectators alike cements why March Madness is able to capture billions in ad spend each year.

In addition to brands spending big on ads during the tournament, many also wisely use bracket-inspired marketing campaigns to inspire heightened brand awareness, engagement, social media buzz or sales (if not all four).

Recent examples of this include Giordano’s wing bracket (complete with a 20% off coupon just for participating), Wendy’s interactive #TeamFrozen vs. #TeamFresh bracket and Polar Seltzer’s bracket to determine which one of its limited-edition flavors should stick around permanently.

  1. Make Your Budget Work for You, Not Against You

There’s no getting around the fact that March Madness buys are expensive. The tournament itself also comes on the heels of the Super Bowl, meaning many advertisers’ budgets may very well be tighter than usual.

While there’s definitely a certain level of a “pay-to-play” mentality, even buyers with a certain level of budgetary limitations can still be part of the “madness.” Since the premium March Madness content equates to premium prices, advertisers will do well to combine their mid-tournament buys with ones that are close to the overall tournament or right before the games themselves.

When looking at our direct-to-consumer (DTC) clients at TVSquared, including a food delivery service and retailer, we also found that live events tend to be ideal for DTC brands to experiment with their creatives, particularly length. During most recent sporting events (March Madness included), 15-second ads performed notably well.

These strategies allow advertisers to take advantage of the excitement without necessarily breaking the bank on each spot, ultimately leading to a more thorough campaign.

  1. Let the Games Begin

In contrast to an event such as the Super Bowl, which may or may not bring in certain regional viewers depending on which teams are playing, the thrill of watching March Madness is typically more about the games themselves as opposed to specific teams.

While loyal fans will always support their favorite team (often the one associated with the school a loved one or they themselves attended), the uncertainty of which teams will truly go the distance each year is what makes March Madness so exciting.

Will it be a long-standing champion? Will an underdog take everyone by surprise? Will there be a clear favorite for most of the tournament, only for that team to be eliminated following a surprising upset? Viewers can never quite know—but you better believe they can’t wait to watch and find out.

Interested in learning who really “won” March Madness this year? Check our TVSquared’s analysis on the best performing advertiser during the tournament here.

And be sure to check out TVSquared’s analysis of NCAA Championship TV ads – find out what spots drove the most response during the big game.