Brands look to leverage March Madness to engage consumers

Every year, college basketball fans around the country eagerly await the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship Tournament, but many brands are similarly excited as they launch March Madness-related campaigns, contests, and promotions.

Every year, college basketball fans around the country eagerly await the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship Tournament, but many brands are similarly excited as they launch March Madness-related campaigns, contests, and promotions.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car, an official sponsor of the NCAA tournament for the ninth year, has partnered with Turner Sports basketball analyst Kenny Smith to launch an interactive bracket on Facebook called the Ultimate Pick Up Moment.

"The beauty of March Madness is that it is followed by a wide audience, which consists of both spirited and more casual sports fans," explained Greg Phillips, brand publicity manager for the company. "Because the tournament generates such strong interest each year, we believe it is an ideal event to activate a consumer marketing program around."

Fans can log on to the Enterprise Facebook page to vote for what they think is the best pick-up moment, or game-changing play or performance, that took place during March Madness. The moments will be paired against one another, aligning with the NCAA games bracket, and one pick-up moment will be named as the greatest.

Those who participate in the pick-up moment bracket also have an opportunity to enter a sweepstakes for a chance to win various prizes, as well as a grand prize of two tickets and a trip to the 2015 NCAA Men’s Final Four.

Enterprise is promoting the campaign through traditional and digital advertising, influencer marketing, PR, and social media, said Phillips.

He added that FleishmanHillard, the brand’s PR agency partner since 2001, has been working on PR for the initiative and secured Smith as a spokesperson, who will also be featured in media appearances and online advertising.

The seven-round, 68-team NCAA Men's Basketball tournament, which began on Thursday, will finish with the long-awaited championship game on April 7.

Men’s clothing retailer Bonobos is also leveraging the NCAA bracket by partnering with Thuzio, an online marketplace that connects business professionals with sports talent. Half of the fan’s bracket will count toward a final score, while the other half will come from the professional athlete he or she chooses for the contest. The winning consumer will walk away with two tickets to the NCAA Championship next year.

Jennifer Connelly Public Relations, which works with Thuzio, is helping the company to build its brand and improve sales relationships.

For its March Madness campaign, Thuzio partnered with Burger King. Jared Augustine, Thuzio CEO, said the fast food chain leveraged 13 athletes that are part of the platform’s network for a Twitter promotion using the hashtag #WatchLikeAKing this week, which is another example of how "March Madness is everywhere."

Unilever’s Dove Men+Care brand has been getting involved in the March Madness craze with a campaign that makes decision-making easier for male fans, both in terms of choosing teams for their NCAA brackets and in deciding on a grooming routine.

For the Easy Decision initiative, Dove Men+Care partnered with Bleacher Report to help fans make decisions with the help of expert insights and statistics on DoveMenCare.com and BleacherReport.com.

Dove Men+Care launched a series of TV commercials to go along with the campaign, and the videos are also available on YouTube and the brand’s website.

Also on the advertising side, Papa John’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and Audi all revealed new commercials for March Madness, while Buffalo Wild Wings launched a series of online videos about its tradition in supporting the games over the years.

Bud Light is brewing some buzz around the tournament’s Final Four, taking over a Dallas hotel from April 5 through April 8 and turning it into a party spot for the games. The brand is inviting select consumers and Bud Light guests to attend the festivities, such as a concert featuring Empire of the Sun and New Politics on April 6 and a pre-game Bud Light Tailgate party on April 7.

Some consumers that will visit the Bud Light Hotel include contest winners from the brand’s Mini Hoops Challenge tournaments at bars or restaurants.

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