Business

Companies try to score with basketball fans during March 'Brand Madness'

Digital marketing: Brands use clever mix of tactics to entertain, build loyalty

General view of the March Madness, Sweet 16, and Elite 8 logo on the court before the semifinals of the South regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament between the Loyola Ramblers and the Nevada Wolf Pack at Philips Arena. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)
General view of the March Madness, Sweet 16, and Elite 8 logo on the court before the semifinals of the South regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament between the Loyola Ramblers and the Nevada Wolf Pack at Philips Arena. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

It’s Brand Madness time again — that oh-so-thrilling time of year when marketers launch campaigns designed to reach and influence college basketball fans and bracket fanatics.

The campaigns — ever increasing in complexity — are a clever mix of marketing tactics designed to entertain, as well as build and reward brand loyalty with freebies and swag. Here’s what some of the big brands are doing this year.

Wendy’s Team Fresh

Wendy’s, the “Official Hamburger of the NCAA,” sought to ease the pressure of picking brackets with its campaign called “Easiest Bracket Ever.” The campaign offers only two bracket choices, encouraging fans to choose Team Fresh over Team Frozen to win perks throughout the tournament.

Downloading the Wendy’s app or visiting one of its three road trip locations earns even more rewards. The Team Fresh campaign lives on Wendy’s social channels — Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

What I like about this campaign is the integration of basketball and fashion — that sassy redhead Wendy has teamed up with luxury streetwear designer, Don C., to launch a special streetwear collection of Team W basketball-themed T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats.

Wendy’s fans will be able to win the swag through social media giveaways and at road trip locations.

Tender by B-Dubs

Billing itself as the “Official Hangout for NCAA March Madness,” Buffalo Wild Wings is running a series of in-restaurant and other initiatives designed to reward fans and entice them to watch the game from a B-Dubs location.

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What I like about this campaign is the sauce-matching kiosk that attempts to match a consumer to his or her ideal sauce based on that consumer’s personality traits. The “Tender by B-Dubs” kiosk set up at the B-Dubs Sports Lounge at Fan Fest in San Antonio, Texas — March 30-April 2.

It asks a consumer personality-based questions to determine their taste profile. Then it shows users profiles of B-Dubs’ 21 sauces and seasonings, each one telling the user about themselves and why that sauce would make a perfect match.

Users can “wipe” left if they’re not interested or right to receive a match made in sauce heaven. I’m a fan of personalized marketing so this idea seems pretty tasty.

The campaign includes extra bonus points for its Blazin Rewards program, limited-edition gift cards, team-branded pint glasses and ticket giveaways.

At the B-Dub Sports Lounge at the San Antonio Fan Fest, there will be wing-eating contests, guest appearances and sauce samplings.

Adding Humor to Powerade

Powerade, the “Official Sports Drink of the NCAA” has launched a brand refresh that tries to bring a bit of fun and humor to what their brand marketers are calling a “category that has become overly serious.”

“Humor actually gives the message more power,” said Jason McAlpin, senior brand manager at Powerade, indicating that the shift is a change for Powerade brand which is trying to stand out in a cluttered sports drink category.

The campaign launched during the first four NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games in early March. Called “That’s Some Kind of Power,” it features a 30-second TV spot called “Ankles” and five 15-second videos — also viewable on the brand’s YouTube channel — designed to pay tribute to great moments in sports.

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We’re told to expect Powerade to show up during those jaw-dropping moments in sports in basketball and other sports. Follow the campaign at #powerthrough.

The initial basketball spot features an older bodega owner imagining what he could have achieved on the basketball court if he’d had Powerade to fuel him in his younger days. The humor of the video spot is that the man muses that “my crossover would’ve been something else — I’d have broken everybody’s ankles, the ref, the peanut vendor . ” The shorter videos each depict another of the man’s flights of basketball fancy. I love it when a brand can make me laugh.

The campaign also includes online, social, retail — signs, etc. — and experiential elements.

Coldwell Banker “Hooptown”

A clever strategy for picking brackets, Coldwell Banker used real estate data to fill out its tournament brackets. “Hooptown Bracketology” leveraged a proprietary tool developed by Coldwell Banker called CBx to compare real estate data from each Division 1 school’s hometown — or “Hooptown” — to select predicted winners of each game.

This campaign wins points with me for finding a fun way to leverage data and tie it to the “madness” of bracket-picking.

Coldwell Banker filled out five different Hooptown brackets:

  • Most Expensive Hooptown — Long Island University, Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Most Affordable Hooptown — University of Oklahoma, Norman, Okla.
  • Easiest Hooptown to Move To — Loyola University, Chicago
  • Newest Hooptown — Duke University, Durham, N.C.
  • Best Hooptown for Singles — University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Check out the brackets and how they’ve performed at hooptown.coldwellbanker.com. Other parts of the campaign include a video called “Hoops.”

l Tracy Pratt is a product manager and marketing strategist at Fusionfarm, a division of Folience, parent company of The Gazette; (319) 398-8343; tracy@fusionfarm.com.

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