More than bragging rights are at stake this month. It’s March and the madness is real for 16 major brands that scored a chance to advertise the NCAA tournament as an official sponsor. This is a huge opportunity for companies to reach a very seasonal, niche audience of more than 10.7 million viewers and increase brand engagement – a must considering the NCAA pay-for-play investment totals hundreds of millions of dollars. Each sponsor receives access to NCAA logo marks, TV airtime, tickets, hospitality, and more, but standing out from the crowded “sweet sixteen” sponsors can be a contest itself.
Here are some quick tricks we’ve learned from brands making the most of March Madness sponsorships:
- Leverage fan data: Consumers are more willing to give to their information to their favorite team rather than a corporate brand. Tap into the NCAA’s data from individual sports teams and make a connection directly with season ticket holders.
- Build anticipation early: Brands that promote their involvement a week or more before the games begin tend to see higher engagement and brand mentions. With so many brands competing for the attention of fans, the sooner a brand can get in front of consumers, the better.
- Develop an advertising theme: Create a theme that will resonate with fans and drive it home through advertising, social engagement, packaging, etc. Consistently being recognized as a sponsor will increase fan recall of the brand. And, don’t miss the opportunity to strengthen the connection to March Madness. Running a regular campaign commercial and not tying it to the NCAA sponsorship is a missed opportunity to create better association between your brand and the NCAA tournament.
- Create team-related content: Throughout the tournament, and even on non-game days, fans are picking and waging for their teams to win, so creating NCAA and team-related content positions the sponsor brand for additional sharing by fans and consumers.
- Think beyond on-site: Millions of people watch the games on television, so pouring money into on-site activities at the final four games doesn’t necessarily pay. Instead, couple your on-site logo exposure with TV, social media and other touch points. Recall of brand mentions are highest when consumers see it everywhere they are.
- Get social: It used to be that sponsorship deals prioritized brand exposure at events, but today social-media is top priority. Seventy-five percent of sports fans use Twitter to get live action updates on games, according to research. And, with many of the games taking place during the work day, Twitter allows fans to feel as close to the action as if they were watching the game on TV. Get in on the conversation and engage with #MarchMadness.