March Madness is not just for college basketball enthusiasts. Brands too joined in on the conversation and won a lot of love on social media. Here, we take a look at some of the top posts by brands around this event.
If we were to name a winner among the posts we analyzed, it would be The University of Northern California at Chapel Hill (*surprise, surprise*).
The Facebook Post that announced their victory amassed close to 12,000 Likes and 4,000 Shares.
Their Tweet that featured a time-lapse video of Franklin Street in the moments after the team’s win got the most Retweets.
— UNC-Chapel Hill (@UNC) April 4, 2017
Another University Page that witnessed a lot of engagement was South Carolina Gamecocks. The Post that boasted of their splendid performance in both men’s and women’s basketball tournament won applause on social media:
In addition to participating universities, brand sponsors and partners received a lot of interactions too.
Reese’s, who was the Official Confectionery Partner of the NCAA, killed it with their content around March Madness. The brand has a reputation for putting out outstanding content around the sporting event in the past too. A strategy that has paid off for them is picturing their hallmark product within the context of NCAA matches.
This year they engaged the audience, along similar lines, with a picture that screams March Madness, but is equally about the candy too.
They shone on Twitter expressing an all-too-relatable thought in a GIF:
— REESE'S (@ReesesPBCups) March 15, 2017
The Official NCAA Corporate Partner, LG had a bunch of interesting things going on as well. Their ad spots on television as well as their social media content featured several university team’s mascots. One of their most popular Tweets got a lot of love because they shared the sentiments of North Carolina fans:
— LG Electronics (@LGUS) March 26, 2017
The brand cleverly integrated contests to its strategy around this event, which resulted in outstanding engagement levels. Across social platforms, they asked audiences to let them know who their favorite mascot is to get a shot at winning two tickets to the Final Four games.
Across industries, brands were appreciated when they joined in on the excitement around the matches. This works particularly well for brands in industries that are closely related to sports. It helps when brands share the sentiments of a majority of their fan base. Take Eastbay’s Tweet, for instance:
— Eastbay (@Eastbay) March 26, 2017
One of the reasons their Tweet got so many Likes and Retweets is because they posted a video of a moment that several of their followers must have relished in (and were probably watching on loop).
Another approach that social media audiences took to had brands showcase their products with a March Madness twist. Quite like what Reese’s did with their peanut butter cups, brands like Svedka and Victoria’s Secret inserted their merchandise into the conversation around this event.
CAT took it a step further with this video that showed a kid make the ultimate H-O-R-S-E shot with the help of a CAT Backhoe loader:
In cases like these, it makes audiences associate your product with the particular event (March Madness here), leading to a possible spike in sales or store visits.
Some brands had merchandise dedicated to the event. Bed, Bath & Beyond offered tumblers that celebrated the Wildcats win while Footlocker featured Air Jordans that were all about the UNC:
Some brands leveraged the buzz around March Madness to define what they were all about using the context of the highly competitive basketball matches. Coca-Cola, for example, is all about the moment of calm where you recharge and refresh yourself before you have to head out into the hectic again.
— Coca-Cola (@CocaCola) March 16, 2017
Dove Men+Care used a picture of sportsmanship and caring to drive home what they stood for as a brand. Being a man is just as about caring for another person as it is about anything else:
Winning means making the shot. Being a winner means lifting up others.
— Dove Men+Care (@DoveMenCare) February 28, 2017
While most of these posts were conventional in format, a couple of brands tried their hand at innovative forms. AT&T used other social media channels to popularize their live video on Snapchat. In it, Jay Williams, ESPN host, former basketball player and college basketball analyst, shows off some classy shots in the Final Four stadium. The live format, along with the behind-the-scenes action featuring a famous personality enthralled social media audiences.
— AT&T (@ATT) March 31, 2017
Northwestern Mutual drove up engagement using a Facebook feature that is still lagging behind in terms of adoption by brands and users – Reactions. The brand got their Fans to vote for the team they were rooting for to win the tournament.
In addition to all the excitement surrounding the competition, the NCAA event was in focus for other reasons too. The NCAA proposed a ban on holding championship events in North Carolina following their repressive bathroom bill. The bill demanded that transgenders use the bathrooms based on the sex assigned to them at birth. This was later repealed, leading NCAA to lift the ban. Non-profits such as ACLU and Human Rights Campaign took to social media to rally for this cause.
Social media opens up avenues for brands to achieve their various engagement goals in innovative ways. Events like March Madness are clearly a challenge in sustaining audience attention for a period at a stretch while managing to put out relevant content. As these brands have shown, more than challenges, these make way for content opportunities whereby brands can stand out.
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