The frenzy of March’s NCAA basketball tournament has arrived, and brands are jumping on board. The attention surrounding the tournament is irresistible to marketers who understand that they can leverage it to super-charge campaigns. Last year alone, advertisers spent $1.3 billion on March Madness-related ads—second only to the NFL playoffs.
This year, March Madness spans across four different TV networks—CBS, TNT, TBS, and TruTV—radio, online sites—like cbssports.com and ncaa.com—and the first-ever devoted YouTube channel. That kind of coverage creates endless opportunities to get in front of basketball fans across TV, desktop, and mobile screens.
Like any marketing surrounding a big event, some brands are doing it better than others. Marketing Dive would like to salute some of the brands with impressive March Madness campaigns this year:
Because both organizations are competing for basketball fans’ attention, it’s easy to assume that the NBA would want to distance itself from NCAA’s March Madness. This year, however, the NBA is embracing the NCAA tournament with gusto. The professional league has launched a TV and digital campaign dubbed “The Dance Never Ends” that highlights the college legacy of certain pro stars.
The set of short video spots features NBA players like Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Paul Pierce. In each spot, the player is animated to morph into their alma mater’s mascot—Stephen Curry, for example, transforms into a Davidson Wildcat.
Buffalo Wild Wings
In its third year as “the Official Hangout for March Madness,” Buffalo Wild Wings is upping its digital campaign game. For this year’s tournament, BWW is emphasizing the difference between watching the game from their restaurants and watching the game from home.
The #WingWisdom campaign will feature a series of eight video spots set to air at specific times throughout the tournament. The series stars comedian Steve Rannazzisi—best known for the TV series “The League”—and is an obvious knock on competitors like Pizza Hut. In addition to the video spots, BWW has created virtual invites— or #Wingvites— for users to share on social sites like Facebook, creating an easy way for fans to gather at the restaurant chain.
Antiperspirant brand Degree Men is taking its March Madness campaign directly to the people—with Twitter. In the exciting first 48 hours of the tournament, the brand teamed up with NBA star Stephen Curry to launch the “48 Hours of NCAA March Madness” Twitter contest.
Fans were encouraged to tweet @DegreeMen with the hashtags #GameChangerFan and #Contest with photos or videos proving why they were the ultimate NCAA basketball fan. Winners received a $500 gift card to upgrade their viewing experience and a personalized recorded message from Stephen Curry to use as bragging material for friends and coworkers. Aside from the contest, Degree Men has been making steady, real-time updates on the tournament to join in the conversation.
Pizza Hut is combining its March Madness campaign this year with a celebration of the 20-year anniversary of its stuffed-crust pizza. To celebrate, the pizza chain is taking a new twist on the classic half-court shot. Basketball and pizza fans are invited to enter a contest to be flown to Indianapolis on April 5 for a special event and attempt to make a half-court shot, backwards. The reverse shot is meant to mimic the stuffed-crust’s campaign of eating a slice of pizza backwards, or crust first. Winners will receive $1 million if they can make the backwards half-court shot.
In addition to the contest, Pizza Hut has launched a throwback campaign with a spot featuring former NBA star David Robinson, who starred in the original spot 20 years ago.
Japan-based car brand Acura has taken a modern approach to its March Madness-themed campaign this year. On top of a blitz of video and banner ads on ESPN.com, the brand has pulled together a series of funny memes. The collection of 103 pun-based memes are available on Acura’s Tumblr page under the name “#MarchMemeness.”
The site features a mix of 15-second videos and animated gifs among the memes, including an awkward smiling mouth with the phrase “Clenched” and a crying baby that reads “Upset, baby!!” To highlight some of the favorites, Acura pulled together a video montage full of giggle-worthy memes.