After a long, grey winter, there is a lot to like about March. Daylight Saving Time kicks in, St. Patrick’s Day brightens our spirits, and what may be the best post season event in sports, professional or otherwise, returns.
That’s right, the 79th NCAA Tournament tips off tonight. The 68 teams that made the tournament will play a total of 67 games over three weeks which will be available on a wide array of digital and traditional channels.
In addition to numerous radio stations and streaming services, four networks (CBS, TNT, TBS and TRUTV) will be broadcasting the games on TV.
This year’s tournament is going all in on the omnichannel. The NCAA has its own app “March Madness Live” (MML) that is available on at least a dozen digital platforms including those from Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Android, and Roku.
You can even bring the tournament with you wherever you go with the Apple Watch version of the app.
The cheering fans aren’t the only ones who love the tournament. It’s also the most popular postseason event for advertisers.
Even as ratings on the whole have declined for major sporting events, the NCAA tournament is still considered a premier venue for advertising. It is second only to the NFL in postseason advertising spends, and is especially enticing to brands targeting the hard-to-reach young male demographic.
It’s so popular partially because it’s such a well-designed event– a thrilling, single-elimination, winner-take-all extravaganza, complete with heartbreaking upsets and Cinderella stories.
But, it’s also because the NCAA has branded its postseason more effectively than just about anyone else.
The “March Madness” moniker has been used since the 1982 tournament and has continually grown in popularity. Like any good brand, it has built up a loyal and passionate following, with a Facebook fan page that has amassed over a million likes.
Alliteration has served the tournament well, turing the Elite Eight, Sweet Sixteen, and Final Four into badges of honor that teams wear proudly.
Brands too– Nike has touted the fact that it represented nearly 80 percent of Final Four teams in the men’s and women’s tournament in the last decade.
Nike has long represented the lion’s share of teams in the tournament (40 in this year’s), but Adidas and Under Armour have both increased their rosters over the past few years and now represent 15 and 12 teams respectively.
There is also the fun of bracketology, which seems to get studied more in depth every year as office pools circulate all over the country in the lead up to the first game.
Though the NCAA is officially against any form of sports gambling involving its players, it does support several contests and games such as the Capital One NCAA March Madness Bracket Challenge.
When you combine rabid college basketball fans, ubiquitous delievery platforms, top-flight branding, and an annual tradition that everyone can enjoy, it all adds up to an old fashioned spectacle that gets amplified with the help of some decidedly modern technology.