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!
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