Is Your March Madness Advertising Strategy a Slam Dunk or a Bust?

One of the most unproductive times of the year for employers is also one of the biggest opportunities for advertisers — March Madness! Last year, consumers filled out more than 70 million brackets during the tournament. This means millions of potential eyeballs for advertisers to target in those action-packed buzzer-beater moments. Luckily, building the right digital advertising plan isn’t as complicated as picking the perfect bracket. We’ll help you play the odds with a high-scoring March Madness advertising strategy:

  1. Combine cross-device targeting and people-based marketing for an unstoppable duo. Getting in front of viewers won’t be difficult for advertisers since fans will be doing everything they can to catch the games. And thanks to live streaming, they can cheer on their alma maters not only at home but also during work hours. Streaming services, like CBS All Access, let them watch throughout the day on their computers, phones and tablets – making cross-device targeting a must for your March Madness advertising strategy.

However, with this increased accessibility comes the need for ad personalization. Consumers expect advertisers to understand their needs and interests. Bombarding them with the same generic message over and over again is a surefire way to cause an upset (especially when it’s a retargeting ad that promotes a product they have already purchased – who’s with me!?). Instead, utilize people-based marketing techniques to share hyper-relevant messages with your consumers.

  1. Make your marketing small-screen-friendly. According to eMarketer, almost half of 18- to 24-year-olds (younger millennials) keep up with March Madness via their mobile devices. When they aren’t able to watch the games live, they will at least be checking the scores and snapping their bracket standings on mobile messaging apps. In fact, messaging app users will top almost 150 million this year thanks to millennial engagement. This obsession equates to tremendous potential reach for advertisers who want to engage a younger demographic during March Madness.

Start your March Madness advertising strategy by making sure all of your landing pages are small-screen-friendly to ensure successful conversions post-click. But don’t take on a “set it and forget it” attitude. Since users will tune in to all things related to the tournament on their phones as much as their TVs, consider other sharable approaches to grab their attention, for example, dynamic ads with GIF highlights of their favorite teams through custom affinity targeting.

  1. Capitalize on cord-cutters during prime time with advanced TV ads. Cord-cutting is on the rise, but that doesn’t mean these viewers don’t want in on the action during prime time. Smart TVs enable those not using linear television — cable, satellite or broadcast — to stream national prime-time events, like March Madness. One of the beauties of advanced TV is you can supplement your existing TV buy with advanced TV tactics to ensure your ads aren’t missing anyone.

Advanced TV ads give you access to cord-cutter and cord-never audiences at both the national and local level. Use this digital video medium to engage a large audience with high-impact, highly visible units. Also, take advantage of advanced TV’s targeting capabilities by layering in basic targeting parameters to reach your most desirable potential customers.

  1. Play for the long game with paid social ads. The inherent communal nature of sports make social media platforms a natural fit for digital advertising plans set to launch during March Madness season. Fans will be tweeting, posting, snapping, gloating, shaming and complaining to their friends on social media before, during and after the games. With paid social advertising, you can target users based on their demographics, locations, interests, behaviors, connections and more.

Take advantage of trending social platforms, such as Snapchat, for a more creative outlet to reach younger viewers. And lucky for marketers, Snapchat recently opened up their programmatic advertising API to all advertisers, for more streamlined buying.

Remember, getting the most mileage out of a social ad campaign also requires thoughtful groundwork well before tip-off. Brands who pre-promote their campaigns through social media contests and events can drive future value by placing tags to retarget users who visited their landing pages with specialty ads during the live event.

  1. Bonus time! Focus your game plan to score big. There are basketball-obsessed fans who wouldn’t dare miss a game or highlight. Then, there are also those who typically couldn’t care less about sports, but the excitement of March Madness catches their attention for a couple of weeks. With more than 40 million people filling out at least one bracket this year, it’s easy to see who the target audience is for advertisers: everyone.

However, just because the excitement creates new opportunities to get in front of a large and coveted audience doesn’t mean you should move forward with every single tactic. Remember, quality over quantity always wins (unless you’re counting the number of times a basketball goes into the net, of course).

Regardless of how your basketball bracket nets out this season, you can still take home a winner. Contact us to talk more about your digital advertising plans and how we can help.

*This post was originally published on 3/21/17 but has been revised and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.