The NCAA Tournament, otherwise known as March Madness, is three weeks of controlled chaos - complete with brackets, basketball, and brand activations. With 68 teams on the battlefield, four of which are eliminated even before the first round, the entire tournament is single-elimination and divided into four regions: the East, West, Midwest, and South. Winning the tournament requires six victories in a row, and, on April 3, North Carolina inched to victory with a 71-65 win over Gonzaga in Glendale, Ariz.
But, there were plenty of other winners besides the Tarheels. Brands clamored to activate onsite, engaging basketball fans on the ground and connecting with an estimated 185 million people tuning in, making it one of the largest home-viewing experiences in all of sports, with airtime on CBS, TNT, TBS, and TruTV, plus online sites, radio, and for the first time ever - YouTube channels. The NCAA, classified as a non-profit organization, increases its monetary value through each game of the tournament broadcasted on TV and filling out millions of brackets nationwide.
“The fan events at the Final Four continue to grow as fun and exciting activities all weekend for everyone, regardless of whether they have a ticket to the basketball games,” said Dan Gavitt, vice president for NCAA men’s basketball championships. “NCAA Corporate Champions and Partners do an amazing job lending their support to all of the fan activities, many of which are free or family-cost friendly. We work each year with Turner Events to bring Final Four experiences that will make lifetime memories for kids and adults alike, and we hope residents of Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun will join the fun.
Here are a few of our favorite brand activations from March Madness 2017:
Photo Courtesy: Capital One
Who doesn’t love a free concert? Capital One invited one thousand fans to join them at JamFest the night before the championship game. The financial corporation's annual fest continues to engage college basketball and music fans year after year with a diverse music offering - this year's concert included performances by Aerosmith, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and Blink 182. The entire event was communicated through the hashtags #RoadToOne and #JamFest for cross-branding.
Beyond JamFest, Capital One's Final Four Fan Fest kept the whole family entertained with basketball clinics, giveaways, concerts, special appearances, autograph signings, and interactive games from all NCAA championships. Fans could even have a true Instagram moment, posing with the NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship trophy, official Final Four merchandise, and samples from NCAA sponsors.
Photo Courtesy: The Arizona Republic
AT&T hosted their annual Block Party concert on March 31. After starting off the year on an incredible note performing on New Year’s Eve in front of 100,000 people, and releasing his fifth single from RIPCORD, country music superstar Keith Urban brought his record-breaking music to downtown Phoenix. Urban was the first to announce his performance with a tweet: “Phoenix!!! We’re coming to you on 3/31 at the #ATTBlockParty @ATT #MarchMadness.” Michael Ray and Justin Moore joined Keith Urban for the first of three free concerts.
College basketball fans went head-to-head with a half court shot competition - who could get the most baskets in 40 seconds, beating the Fastest 4G Shootout. AT&T also provided social media engagement opportunities, inviting fans to text their prediction for the tournament champion.
3. Intel's VR Courtside Seat Experience
Photo Courtesy: Intel
Intel partnered up with Turner Sports, CBS Sports, and the NCAA to release their Intel True VR to fans, which was available through the Live VR app. For the first time ever, college basketball fans were able to purchase the March Madness Live virtual reality premium ticket for virtual courtside seat experience. These technology integrations were a huge hit for Intel and how they changed their entire fan experience. It provided the fans with the most innovative viewing experience imaginable. In addition to this NCAA March Madness Live app, fans can access sports and entertainment, also, from the Intel True VR app in the Oculus store.
4. Coca-Cola's Share A Coke and Concert
Photo Courtesy: The Coca-Cola Company
For the 15th year in a row, Coca-Cola created custom, branded glass bottles, celebrating March Madness, bringing to life new experiences, promotions and advertising to celebrate, refresh and reward fans. 2017's campaign also served to highlight the company's Share A Coke promo, uniting the fans' passion for music and basketball, all while drinking from the limited-edition team bottles. In addition to the Share A Coke campaign, Coca-Cola also hosted a free music concert for residents and fans on April 1, produced by Turner Live Events, and featuring band-of-the-moment, The Chainsmokers.
Basketball lovers were able to buy custom Coke bottles with their favorite team logos, nicknames, and battle cries for more than 50 colleges and universities. The limited-edition bottles could be pre-ordered online, where fans also shared the bottle images with their Facebook friends.
Interested in taking your brand to an event like March Madness? Let's talk.
Photo courtesy: Pexels