How Brands Are Winning March Madness

How Brands Are Winning March Madness

Advertising

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.

How to Apply a March Madness Approach to Paid Search

How to Apply a March Madness Approach to Paid Search

Search

I look forward to NCAA March Madness every year. What I do like about March Madness is picking random teams based off either the state, the colors, or just rankings and odds. I love the camaraderie of being in a pool and heckling the other losers, and typically losing my $10 buy-in. Now that I’ve gotten the hang of creating a March Madness bracket year over year, I thought I’d apply the approach of choosing brackets to selecting a winning paid search strategy for 2017, based on my knowledge of search engine marketing.

Getting Started with a Paid Search Bracket

What makes March Madness so fun and exciting is that each tournament is different. The Connecticut Huskies won the championship in 2011 and 2014, yet they aren’t even in the bracket this year. Well, paid search is like March Madness in that regard — you cannot predict the “winning” tactic every year. What worked years ago might not be relevant in 2017. For example, targeting long-tail keywords used to be a best practice. Now the long-tail keyword approach has become obsolete due to the addition of close keyword variation. Now, let’s take a look at 16 important paid search tactics/practices for 2017 and put them in a bracket for consideration. How would you fill out the following bracket?

All of these tactics are important, and, depending on your needs, the results could be different. For example, is your key performance indicator lead generation? Then shopping campaigns wouldn’t apply. Do you have a small budget? I wouldn’t recommend YouTube if you have a small budget and your main goals are return on ad spend or cost per order. But if you are interested in increasing brand awareness, YouTube could be beneficial. The fun part about paid search is that there isn’t a “one size fits all” mentality. The important thing is to learn what works for you each year.

Selecting the Final Four Paid Search Tactics for 2017

Below is my paid search bracket for 2017. I’ve given a brief description about my Final Four and why I think my candidates are pivotal in 2017.

  • Adwords IF Function Ads – We now can modify our ad copy based on device or audience. Doing allows us to change our call to action for those on mobile from “Learn More” to “Call Now” or maybe “Easy Mobile Booking.”
  • Demographic Targeting – We can optimize and gather data based on income, age, gender, and so forth. Do we see that 18-24 year olds aren’t performing as well as 35-44 year olds? Let’s exclude or add a negative bid multiplier on the 18-24 year olds so that we can increase of traffic volume for those demographics that perform well.
  • Attribution – What campaigns help the “last click conversion” with “assisted conversions”? We all know that the brand campaigns have a much higher conversion rate and conversion amount. How much of that outcome comes from assisted conversions? Did our non-branded, dynamic search campaign or display campaigns contribute to the branded conversions?
  • Facebook Lookalike Targeting – Using Facebook’s algorithm to create a new audience based off of a list of past customers. You might find success when using this targeting if you have a smaller budget and target a focused audience size.

The Winner: Demographic targeting! Instead of relying on keyword data for all of our optimizations, we can now optimize off of age, gender, income targeting, and so on. We are now able to add bid modifiers or exclude demographics that don’t fit our target audience. This capability, in turn, can increase our order volume, or improve efficiencies by reducing traffic that isn’t a fit for our clients. Demographic targeting is just in the beginning stages for paid search campaigns and will only improve as Google gains more information.

Lead image source: Fredrick Kearney Jr. (https://stocksnap.io/author/37926)