One of the most unproductive times of the year for employers is also one of the biggest opportunities for advertisers — March Madness! Tens of millions of consumers fill out brackets each year, hoping for perfection, even though there are over 9.2 quintillion possible combinations.
Luckily, building the right March Madness advertising plan isn’t as complicated as picking the perfect bracket. We’ll help you play the odds with a high-scoring March Madness advertising strategy. With the tournament just a few weeks away, here are some things you can do now to get ready for the big dance:
- Create suspense and curiosity by releasing advertising content that builds upon itself. We’ve all seen those teaser videos that big brands put out ahead of their multimillion-dollar investments during the Super Bowl. Avocados from Mexico, Pepsi, and Bubly are a few that come to mind. Generate buzz for your brand by producing sequential creative messages that tell a story way before tip-off. This type of strategy will allow you to create a deeper narrative, engage fans earlier on and boost earned media exposure.
- Take advantage of lower prices (and competition) ahead of the madness. In 2017, March Madness attracted $1.3 billion in national TV ad spending. Knowing how many eyeballs will be drawn in by the games creates increased demand to be front and center. Increased demand leads to higher competition, and, therefore, higher prices. In fact, a 30-second March Madness advertising spot could cost upwards of $1.7 million. Stay ahead of the competition and get the most bang for your buck by heavying up your spend pre-tournament. And you’ll still reach a large user base of superfans who take part in watching college basketball all season.
- Set yourself up for success by ensuring the entire experience is mobile-friendly. Considering a large chunk of the tournament takes place during a typical workday, consumers will tune in to whatever device they can. According to eMarketer, last year over 70% of internet users polled stated that they would watch the NCAA March Madness Games through streaming—either digital streaming from a specific TV channel or through NCAA March Madness Live (their proprietary app) using a cable TV subscription. Ensure that your creative and landing pages are mobile-friendly to allow for a smooth customer journey.
- Review what you’ve learned in the past to help guide your digital strategy this year. Just as fans will be reviewing team performances throughout the season to guide their bracket selections, March Madness advertisers should also pay attention to tactics they tried in the past and hone in on what worked best. Perhaps going all-in on mobile will produce the best ROI for your campaigns. Or that test you recently ran for advanced TV worked so well, you may want to capitalize on the opportunity to reach millions of streaming viewers in the same way next month. Don’t leave it up to fate, do your research and plan accordingly to get the most out of your media spend.
Bonus Time! Here are a few emerging trends to keep an eye on:
- Esports: Esports, an umbrella term referring to competitive video game tournaments, are gaining in popularity. While March Madness reaches a broad range of demographics, esports attracts a more niche, highly coveted audience of young, affluent males. Last year, the Mountain West Conference announced its sponsorship of an esports tournament called MW eSports Showdown with games taking place in conjunction with the traditional NCAA event. The MW eSports tournament illustrates the growth of collegiate esports, and universities are even starting to add esports programming, technology and business to their curriculum offerings. This boom in the vertical will lead to increased advertising opportunities during the March Madness matchups and serve as a way to reach a more precise audience with a highly targeted message.
- Sports Betting: Last May, the Supreme Court overturned a federal law from 1992 that had prohibited some states from authorizing sports betting, clearing the path for states to legalize the practice. Now that gambling is no longer confined to office brackets in seven states and counting, new audiences are entering the U.S. sports market to partake in the fun that March Madness brings, opening up even more viewers and potential inventory.
As an agency veteran, Megan has been fascinated by the efficiency and effectiveness of the programmatic revolution since Day 1. Creating and managing her first in-house trading desk early in her career was a source of inspiration that drives her to this day as a research manager at Goodway Group. She brings a unique and fresh share-first approach to programmatic media and digital strategy as part of her role to grow the knowledge base across Goodway and the entire digital media industry. If after nearly ten years in media she still claims her passion for programmatic, it’s clear she is doing something right.