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How brands can use March Madness to compete for consumer attention

march madness marketingRegardless of whether your brand's marketing is aimed at sports fans, there's a way you can take advantage of this popular event.

Even if you're not the biggest fan of college basketball, most Americans know that the end of February means March Madness is coming. This time of year, as the regular season wraps up, the best teams in the nation prepare to face off in a 68-team elimination tournament between March 15 and April 4 with a rivalrous reputation. The event often inspires consumers to get competitive in their own lives. Friends make bets on which teams will end up in the Final Four, employees pitch in for company-wide brackets competitions, and family rivalries heat up. The behavior might not come as news to you, but what is your brand doing to take advantage of it? When companies take a page out of college basketball's book and play into the hype, they can drive engagement and conversions with their own fans. UGC (user-generated content) campaigns that capitalize on March Madness can take users' competitive nature to the next level while also achieving some major ROI for your brand. The good news is you don't have to know about college basketball or even be a sports-centric brand to participate. After understanding the framework of brackets and voting campaigns, you'll be ready as ever to get the ball rolling with your digital marketing efforts.

You don't need to be a sports expert to get involved

If your brand's products and services have nothing to do with basketball, you might struggle to understand how to stay relevant during March Madness. You don't have to be a sports company to get in on the action. Instead, think of the culture that surrounds athletic events, and how your brand might fit into the picture. Remember that fans aren't merely attending basketball games; they're planning watch parties, chatting with friends, and getting creative. Maybe consumers are snacking on your products, wearing them at tailgates, or taking them on road trips. Maybe you provide services that will come in handy when pregame activities or family gatherings go awry. Whatever the case may be, paying attention to consumer behavior off the court will likely pay off.

Brands should also remember that while March Madness is a major part of popular culture this time of year, not everyone is as emotionally invested in the games as their peers. Certain digital marketing campaigns can cater to both the diehard fans and casual viewers when properly executed. By structuring marketing programs -- like putting two products or services head-to-head and allowing fans to vote in a bracket format -- you're making your marketing campaigns timelier and equally accessible for sports fans and even the most sports-illiterate consumers.

Inspiring UGC that capitalizes on a competitive nature is simpler than you think

There are several UGC experiences brands can launch to make their audiences feel like they're part of the action, while also informing them of relevant products and services. Even an investment firm launched a bracket campaign to get in on the action. The campaign did not mention basketball directly, but the familiar look of a bracket inevitably resonated this time of year. This particular campaign focused on retirement, allowing users to vote on options for how to spend retirement time. This capitalizes on making choices and promotes competition while still remaining on-brand.

It is important to note, though, that brands can still allude to March Madness without making campaigns look explicitly like brackets. A simple face-off, where consumers are presented with only two products and select which one they prefer, can be a great alternative. Additionally, leaderboards that allow fans to use one of several hashtags to express their preferences for their favorite options can also play into an individuals' competitive side.

Engaging your fans during March Madness is simple, and allows for brand creativity. Whether your brand is most popular among college basketball fans or has nothing to do with sports at all, there's a good chance you can benefit from March Madness in one way or another. Bracket campaigns, face-offs, and other forms of UGC experiences will ultimately prove to be a slam dunk.


(Courtesy of iMedia)

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