Performance Marketing Expert

3 Successful #MarchMadness Campaigns to Emulate

March Madness is coming...

With the popularity of the cultural phenomenon, it pays to create marketing campaigns centered around the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. Last year, there were many campaigns crafted specifically with March Madness in mind. Learning from the successes of these marketing campaigns can lead to successful marketing during the month of March.


The mega car company launched a series of video advertisements last March that played off the idea of recruiting college basketball players. Potential car buyers were lectured by “Coach T”, a stereotypical NCAA-like coach. The ads were entertaining, eye catching and memorable to basketball fans nationwide.

Learning from Toyota

No matter what the brand or product, businesses can learn from Toyota's March Madness campaign. Rather than selecting a single team or round to focus on, try crafting a marketing campaign centered around a well-known aspect of basketball culture. A pizza company can try a bracket poll on favorite ingredients through social media. A retail outlet can offer sales based on popular rounds of the tournament such as the “Sweet Sixteen.”


The Reese’s company jumped feet first into the insanity of March Madness in 2012. With a campaign that offered a contest for free Reese’s for life and tickets to the tournament, it’s no wonder why their campaign was so popular. What’s most impressive was the amount of social media utilized to express their message. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were all used to connect with avid basketball fans.

Learning from Reese’s

Since many March Madness aficionados are of college age, food companies often find that offering the potential for free food is a successful strategy. Yes, free food for life might be a bit much, but offering a free sandwich if a certain local team wins can boost sales.

If your business can’t afford to provide free products or send fans to the tournament, you still can utilize social media. Following the tournament and commenting on upsets, even offering sales of one type if a team wins and another if a team loses can seriously increase customer interest. Individuals who follow the tournament often do so religiously, so appeal to that crowd by staying plugged in with what’s happening and posting about it through social media.


Unilever, the maker of Dove soap products, launched a campaign called “Journey to Comfort” that featured basketball players and their stories. This campaign also prompted customers to share their own stories, as well. The success of the campaign stemmed from the combination of a basketball theme with customer interaction.

Learning from Dove

It’s difficult and expensive to get former or current basketball players to contribute to a marketing campaign, but Dove's marketing does show one element that everyone can use. A basketball-themed campaign that a customer can relate to and engage with is powerful.

Strategies for the Tournament

During the NCAA Tournament, there is a small window for an increase in traffic to sites, sales at stores, and communication with potential customers. Creating a campaign that includes keywords which relate to the tournament or basketball in general is a simple step that can generate serious results. In March of 2010, for example, basketball related search queries increased a total of 769 percent in comparison to February of the same year.

Party supply stores, food-based businesses, travel agencies, and even clothing stores can grab a piece of the March Madness pie. Creating an “underdog” themed sale draws in the countless fans who watch simply to see an upset. Even companies who are focused around smaller markets can utilize the “underdog” idea to relate to their region’s team.

Convenience services, application developers, and technology companies can benefit as well. Showing how an item or service can improve the individual’s “game” or “performance” is a winning strategy.

Understanding how companies have successfully engaged the college basketball audience is the key to creating a successful marketing campaign. Target March Madness fans and get results.

02/28/2013 at 03:59