Google, Bing, President Obama and presumably actress and Wildcat fan Ashley Judd predict Kentucky will emerge victorious in the 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship on April 6. No such prognostications, however, have been made for the flurry of basketball-themed marketing content that has emerged to capture fans’ attention. That is, until now.
Unlike the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship, which also plays out in March, the men’s tournament is big business. To wit: Per Think with Google, 30 percent of Americans – or an estimated 90 million people – filled out March Madness brackets in 2014.
What’s more, media monitoring and marketing firm Kantar Media calls the annual event “one of the largest and most valuable properties in all of television sports,” generating $7.5 billion in national TV ad expenditures from 279 marketers from 2005 to 2014 with advertisers spending about $1.13 billion last year alone.
So, in the spirit of what could rightfully be called March Marketing Madness, Momentology has created its own branded bracket-style showdown with four regions of themed content:
- Trick Shots
- Brackets and Prediction Tools
We’ve looked at which brands have created content in each region and pitted their campaigns against each other to determine which marketing teams deserve a cut of March Marketing Madness glory.
And like the roar of the proverbial crowd, there’s certainly lots of noise for these brands to cut through en route.
After a number of early upsets, multiple brands attempted to go real-time-ish by riffing off of busted brackets. That includes Patron Tequila, TurboTax, LG Electronics, and even the Buffalo Bills.
And then there’s all the content that simply falls into a general basketball-themed bucket (hoop?):
- Candy brand Reese’s has asked fans to pick their top five candies for their “starting lineup”.
- Hotels.com’s @CaptainObvious has been tweeting general commentary.
- DiGiorno Pizza has gone philosophical.
- Buffalo Wild Wings is sharing facts with #WingWisdom.
- Insurance brand Nationwide has revived Invisible Mindy in a basketball-themed spot.
- Beer brand Shiner has pleaded allegiance to underdogs.
- Men’s care brand Degree Men is tweeting about so-called #GameChanger moments while also asking fans to submit photos of videos demonstrating their own fandom.
- Supermarket chain and Big 10 sponsor Meijer has also tweeted about conference-specific fandom.
As campaigns go, these are our lower seeds. What follows is where most of the real marketing action lies.
Momentology’s March Brandness Bracket
Region 1: Trick Shots
Potato chip brand Pringles is asking fans to get a backboard from retailer Walmart (or to download one from its Flavor Slam website), create a trick shot video and share it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube with the hashtag #FlavorSlam. And to perhaps provide inspiration, the brand has partnered with sports/comedy troupe Dude Perfect, whose Ping Pong Trick Shots 2 video has 4.2 million views as of March 21.
Per Topsy, however, the hashtag #FlavorSlam has only been used about 300 times in the past month.
American auto manufacturer Buick is also using trick shot videos, but asking consumers to choose their favorites in a bracket-style showdown – the aptly named Buick Bracket Showdown.
With 16 videos from players like Trick Shot Titus, Jambroz, and Dunking Devils, Buick asks consumers, “Which trick shots shatter your expectations?”
Winner: Buick. The brand has harnessed not one but two March Madness themes in an interactive campaign that dovetails nicely with its “That’s expectation shattering. That’s the new Buick”-tagline.
But Buick is certainly not the only brand to put its own spin on the infamous tournament bracket.
Region 2: Brackets and Prediction Tools
Software and web services firm Adobe is asking fans to cast votes on the most frustrating paper processes in its #FormRage Bracket, which includes the Legality, Workplace, Applications and Family Affairs Regions and match-ups like filling out tax returns versus passport applications, as well as health histories versus driver’s license renewal forms.
Indeed, like Momentology itself, many brands are jumping on the bracket bandwagon this year:
- News network CNN is asking fans to face off against their favorite anchors in the CNN March Madness Bracket Challenge.
- The NFL is asking fans to vote on NFL games in its Greatest Game of All Time bracket.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers are tracking which players’ and coaches’ alma maters are still alive in its own Steelers-themed bracket.
- The Oakland Raiders are asking fans to vote on the Greatest Play in Raiders’ History while also pushing the hashtag #SilverandBlackMadness.
- The NHL also used its own bracket to tell the world which sport it thinks reigns supreme.
Meanwhile, Bing created a March Madness Bracket Builder tool, which it says helps fans make smart selections. So, too, did men’s grooming brand Dove Men+Care, which worked with sports media company Bleacher Report to help fans make bracket selections using digital Instabrackets in an effort for National Bracket Day.
Dove Men+Care is also celebrating “Real Strength Moments” throughout the tournament by launching a new spot that it says “highlights moments of fatherhood and friendship that truly enrich men’s lives…and contrast with the stereotypical, physical depictions of strength that often populate the media landscape, particularly in the throes of a competitive sports season.”
In addition, the brand has partnered with former NBA star Alonzo Mourning to share “personal moments that have defined who he is as a man” on DoveMenCare.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Dove Men+Care also asking fans to share what #RealStrength means to them and says the @MarchMadness Twitter handle will be tweeting “both historical and real-time moments of #RealStrength relevant to the NCAA March Madness tournament.”
Winner: Dove Men+Care. The men’s grooming brand has extended messaging from the Super Bowl in a relevant and comprehensive way. Although we also give props to Adobe for creativity in its March Madness-themed push for its Document Cloud.
Region 3: Analysts
Insurance company Allstate is also getting in on the predictions racket, pitting ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale against weather prognosticating groundhog Punxsutawney Phil in the Allstate March Mayhem Challenge. In addition, Allstate has also launched a Mayhem Bracket Predictor Tool, which allows users to pair any two teams in the tournament to see the win probability for each school. The site also provides NCAA-themed this-day-in-history facts and a chart with statistical data on the likelihood of each team winning the whole enchilada.
The Mayhem Bracket Predictor also notes that statistically speaking, consumers have a better chance of “[becoming] a pro athlete, [getting] struck by lightning AND [discovering] your child is a certified genius” than picking the perfect bracket.
During previous Allstate March Mayhem Challenge events, the release notes Vitale has “narrowly edged out a victory” against the Georgia Aquarium’s sports-predicting dolphins and Joel, the Fort Worth Herd’s 1,795-pound longhorn.
And speaking of beef, Vitale is also working with jerky brand Oberto in a basketball-themed spot in the brand’s “Little Voice in the Stomach” series. Oberto is also asking consumers to upload their best Vitale impressions for a chance to meet him in person.
Another ESPN analyst, Jay Bilas, has teamed up with quick service chain Wendy’s in a series of so-called “Bilasophy” videos meant to also push the brand’s sponsorship of the John R. Wooden Award, which is presented annually to the outstanding men’s and women’s collegiate basketball players of the year, and to remind consumers to vote at WoodenAwardVote.com.
Bilasophy videos cover topics like teamwork, motivation, geometry, sponsorship, and legacy.
Winner: Allstate. Who doesn’t like pitting Vitale against soothsaying animals?
Region 4: Memes
In Acura’s March Memeness campaign, the brand is pumping out real-time memes “brought to you by the quick-to-react ILX,” the brand’s sports sedan model. March Memeness memes include basketball terminology like Nice Basket and Traveling, as well as the hashtag #MarchMemeness, which, per Topsy, has been used 20 times in the last 30 days.
Per a YouTube video with a compilation of Acura’s memes, consumers can watch the memes live starting March 20 on ESPN.com. The brand has reportedly created 103 memes as of March 21. The content is shareable on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
And then there’s AT&T, which is also rolling out GIFs with basketball stars Shaquille O’Neil and Christian Laettner, as well as a Tourney Tips video.
Winner: Acura. March Memeness is real-time, relevant, and has a nice tie back to the “quick-to-react ILX.”
Which March Madness campaign do you think will resonate the most with college basketball fans?