How Brands Are Winning March Madness

How Brands Are Winning March Madness

March Madness means great basketball. It also means creative brand activations. And this year, perhaps inspired by the returning energy of in-person fans (because of Covid, fans hadn’t been present at the games since 2019), the campaigns seem more innovative than ever. The slate of advertisers is certainly robust: “We’ve written more revenue in this tournament than we ever have before, record-setting revenues for this year,” notes Jon Bogusz, the executive vice president of CBS sports sales and marketing. Let’s take a closer look at what brands are doing for this event—and what that means for you.

Gaming Online

Video game streaming platform Twitch is embracing March Madness with two new brand activations. /TwitchSports, Twitch’s sports streaming service, has revived two shows—“Let’s Go! College Hoops” and “SuperFan FaceOff”—with sponsorships by Wendy’s and Philips Norelco. It’s a win-win (no pun intended!) for both the brands and the platform: the brands help Twitch expand its reach and popularity in the sports community, even as the brands benefit from /TwitchSports’s huge viewership. “With hours watched of sports content on Twitch growing in the triple-digit percentages last year, we’re thrilled to open up some of our original content on /TwitchSports to both returning and new advertisers on Twitch,” notes Sarah Iooss, head of sales for the Americas at Twitch. As Iooss explains it, /TwitchSports gives brands exposure to sports fans in the powerful Millennial and Gen Z demographics.

The campaigns capitalize on the power inherent in the Twitch platform. Philips Norelco, which is sponsoring “SuperFan FaceOff,” makes use of Twitch’s integrated chat feature. Meanwhile, Wendy’s returns to Twitch to feature a segment of “SuperFan FaceOff” in which hosts call out their fave daily menu items from the fast-food chain. Branding from both sponsors will appear on the Twitch platform and livestreams.

Gaming in Person

Wendy’s has also pursued an in-person activation at the Entertainment Capital of the World. Partnering with Adult Swim’s “Rick and Morty” animated series, the chain participated in “Morty’s Mayhem,” an immersive LED experience housed at Resorts World Las Vegas. Running from March 17 through 20, “Morty’s Mayhem” featured games, an area to watch the basketball tournaments, swag from both sponsors, and the not-to-be-missed Pickle Rick Frosty, a salty take on Wendy’s Frosty graced with dried pickle garnish. The Pickle Rick confection was offered for free; Wendy’s also got the chance to promote treats such as the new Hot Honey Chicken Biscuit. As Tricia Melton, chief marketing officer for Warner Bros. Kids, Young Adults and Classics, notes, “It’s a perfect trifecta. You’ve got Vegas, you’ve got college basketball at its apex and you’ve got this ‘Rick and Morty’ partnership with Wendy’s that brings this other whole layer of surprise and silliness and fan experience altogether.”

A New Look — and New Products

For Coldwell Banker, the basketball tournament represents an opportunity to unveil not only a new website but three new tools: CB Estimate, Move Meter, and the Seller’s Assurance Program. Called “Dream,” the campaign aired March 15 during March Madness, and leaned into the idea that Coldwell Banker can help make people’s dreams of home . . . come true. As the real estate franchise sees it, even our fondest dreams may require a jumpstart from data, and Coldwell Banker aims to help with its seller-focused tools.

They do address a need. As reported in MediaPost, almost half of American homeowners don’t know the current value of their home. The campaign also underlines the seismic changes that have taken place in brand outreach. As David Marine, CMO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate, says, “The pandemic changed some aspects of media with the surge in streaming, and the fact that early on some media outlets that we wouldn’t ordinarily focus on, like cable news, all of a sudden became really efficient.”

Hitting the Road

Meanwhile, Nissan, an official partner of the NCAA March Madness basketball tournaments, has launched its “Road 2” campaign featuring mascots from 27 teams. The message? The path to the Final Fours can be . . . unpredictable. The campaign, which embraces media like TV as well as onsite activations at both the men’s and women’s tournaments, features eight new spots and incorporates new Nissan models like the all-electric Nissan Ariya crossover. And fans who complete both the men’s and women’s online bracket challenge, created in partnership with CBS Sports, may have a chance at winning some brand-new wheels in the form of the new Nissan Frontier.

Lessons Learned

What can we learn from the brands who have hitched their wagons to the March Madness star? Some takeaways as we see it:

  • Know your audience. Brands like Philips Norelco surely understand that a platform like Twitch is frequented by Gen Z and Millennials. By making themselves visible on Twitch, they are increasing exposure to these key demographics.
  • Don’t be afraid to have fun — and take some chances. Wendy’s pulled out the stops with a fun take on an old favorite. While we may not immediately associate pickles with a Frosty, Wendy’s made the leap, and it’s been a successful one: this isn’t the Pickle Rick’s first rodeo. It first debuted in Los Angeles in 2021.
  • Give your audience a little gift — and a lift. Free Pickle Ricks. Free tools like Coldwell Bank’s CB Estimate. Consumers the world over respond positively to getting something at no cost.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Nissan’s “Road 2” campaign reaches out to consumers in different ways, from the television commercials to social and onsite activations.
  • Stay flexible — and informed. Coldwell Banker’s understanding of how the pandemic has shaped advertising helped them formulate a campaign that makes sense for how consumers connect with messaging in 2022.
  • Finally, think about what annual events might represent a good opportunity for your brand. Is there a connection to what you sell or do? Does the event draw the same audience you hope to woo?

Contact True Interactive

March Madness illustrates how brands can harness the power of popular events to reach a broad audience. Want to learn more? Contact us. We can help.

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