The Upset is a Winner in Social Media Marketing

March Madness is winding down, with the Final Four set for this weekend in Houston. The drama that unfolds during NCAA tournament games can be breathtaking, and storylines develop that make household names out of relatively obscure teams and players. This year is no different as VCU had to play its way into the tournament and made a remarkable run to the Final Four. Along the way, VCU beat higher seeded teams in the Southwest Region including Georgetown, Purdue, and Kansas.

VCU’s string of upsets in the NCAA basketball tournament has created buzz and excitement, two traits that any brand would desire. So, why not tap into the frenzy of interest generated by upsets during March Madness? According to Networked Insights, a social media marketing firm, that is exactly what some marketers are doing as an alternative to expensive TV advertising buys. A Networked Insights client made unpaid and paid content placements in social media and search engines related to upsets that generated almost 200 million paid impressions at an average CPM of just over $11. When the unpaid exposure received was factored in, CPM dropped to just over $2.

A strategy of brand message placement in the context of upsets in the NCAA basketball tournament is brilliant! It is a great example of marketing in the moment, deftly associating a brand with a popular cultural event. And, upsets tend to be feel good stories (unless your team is the one that was upset), creating desirable emotions to link to a brand. Marketing around upsets is effective because they are unexpected, newsworthy events. When upsets happen, basketball fans might seek out information about the game, and in the case of VCU, search to learn more about the coach, players, and institution.

The fact that there are no 1 or 2 seeds in the Final Four and two teams came in to the tournament as 8th (Butler) and 11th (VCU) seeds are evidence that this year’s NCAA basketball tournament has proven to be a bonanza for marketers looking for upsets to provide marketing opportunities. With the Butler-VCU winner playing either Connecticut or Kentucky in the championship game, is there one more upset in the cards for marketers? One can only hope!

Marketing Charts – “March Madness Upsets Ideal for Online Ad Content”

Why All the Madness?

Today is one of my top three sports days of the year. Along with New Year’s Day college football bowl games and Super Bowl Sunday, the first day of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is special. The tournament is more than a sporting event, it has taken on an identity in American culture known as “March Madness.” Why has the NCAA men’s tournament transformed from a basketball lover’s dream to part of the fabric of who we are? I see three reasons:

1.Story Lines – Like the Olympics, stories emerge during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament about players, coaches, or teams that overcame obstacles to achieve success. Heroes emerge like Stephen Curry of Davidson College in 2008. All 64 teams have dreams of success. Half of them will have their dreams shattered by the end of the day on Friday, but all have hope of having a shining moment on a national stage.

2.Scope of Participants – The tournament is national in scope both in terms of locations of tournament games and location and mission of participating institutions. This year’s tourney has teams from 32 states, and the types of institutions range from enormous state supported schools to small liberal arts colleges.

3.Connectivity – Basketball fans both serious and casual are no longer merely spectators. Friends and co-workers participate in competitions to see who can pick the most winners. This ritual is no longer constrained by physical location as Internet-hosted competitions allow friends to gather regardless of where they live.

Enjoy the Madness. I hope you win your bracket competition… unless you’re competing against me!