It’s tempting to work every imaginable event and holiday into a brand’s promotional calendar. Many “holidays” are even created purely as marketing ploys (I’m looking at you, Prune Breakfast Month). But there’s good reason to ride the coattails of seasonal events and holidays – when done right, it provides fresh ideas, generates buzz, and improves SEO.
Every March, the NCAA Tournament is extremely popular for promotional use among brands. Not only does it span an entire month, but the theme is easily adapted to a brand’s marketing goals. However, making March Madness relevant to a brand without getting lazy can be challenging. Year after year, many brands go through the motions of thoughtlessly adding basketballs and brackets into March campaigns.
How can a brand avoid getting lost in the overkill of seasonal promotions? Below are a few brands using (and not using) key components to effectively tie March Madness into their campaigns.
1. Tie Several Events Together
Guinness saw an opportunity with St. Patrick’s Day and the start of the NCAA Tournament falling on the same day. Their campaign urging people to take March 17th off of work targeted both St. Patrick’s Day revelers and basketball fans (and people looking for an excuse to call out of work). An interactive Facebook tab and a cool basketball/shamrock branded profile picture seamlessly tie the promotion into the Guinness Fan Page.
Why it works: Killing two birds with one stone by tying the promotion into two events, along with smart branding and a rebellious tone (see above re: urging people to play hooky).
2. Make it Competitive
Ebay’s Game On campaign includes an infographic bracket ranking teams by the amount of money spent on team merchandise between January 1 and March 12. Clicking on a team in the bracket leads to auction listings.
Why it works: Appealing to basketball fans’ loyalty by encouraging them to make a purchase if their team’s sales are low.
3. Make it Re-usable
StatSheet.com takes virtual trash talk to a new level with their StatSmack feature, which “arms you with statistical data that will empirically show that your team is better than any other team on the planet.” Users pick two teams in the tournament to compare and it then generates statistics on why team A is better than team B. The stats can then be tweeted at rival teams’ fans, along with a link back to the site. The stat generator can be used year after year for March Madness and built out around other sports events.
Why it works: Easy to share and extremely relevant to the site, this feature can also be used again in future.
4. Be Controversial
The Consumerist hosts an annual Worst Company in America bracket pitting giant corporations against one another. Plenty of blog posts for each round provide controversial content and plenty of traffic for The Consumerist. This smart promotion is relevant to the site, avoids being hateful, and even playfully taunts some of the nominated companies via Twitter.
Why it works: This promo stirs up controversy and also provides great content for the site throughout the month.
5. Provide an Incentive
Perhaps the lamest use of a bracket comes from an official NCAA sponsor. Domino’s uninspired pizza bracket begs the question “who cares?” while offering no clear incentive for participation. I spent quite a while searching the fine print but it appears if buffalo chicken pizza wins the tournament I’ll only win bragging rights.
Why it works: Eh, it doesn’t. Providing some incentive, like a coupon to those who voted on the winning pizza, would generate more interest.