The phrase rolls off the tongue, triggers memories and signals what’s coming again, like it or not.
But where did the catchy name for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament come from and how did it become a cultural tradition?
The answers make for a case study in how grassroots marketing and creative story telling can build brands, create rituals and influence behavior.
The NCAA tournament celebrates its 75th Anniversary this year. It wasn’t known as March Madness until 1982 when CBS broadcaster Brent Musberger borrowed the phrase used by The Illinois High School Association for their state basketball tournament since 1939.
But it’s not just a cool name. The NCAA tournament combines talented college players, fan loyalty and a win or go home format with creative messaging from partners like ESPN, CBS and hundreds of sponsors to win our hearts and minds.
How can you learn from March Madness and make your marketing better?
- Make It About Them (us!): Are you ready to fill out your bracket? If not, you know you’re going to hear about it from someone, somewhere. It’s estimated 30 million people will complete an NCAA bracket. You can watch multiple games at the same time, on your TV, smart phone or desktop. Sponsors offer interactive promotions. Something for everyone.
- Make an Emotional Impact: Video highlights become works of art with fast paced shots and inspirational music. Stories are told about players, coaches, families, schools and even mascots. The end result is an emotionally charged three-week event featuring Cinderella teams, heart breaking losses and amazing performances.
- Make It Memorable: The Big Dance. Bracketology. Sweet Sixteen. Elite Eight. The Final Four. Now that’s memorable messaging.
- Make Social Media Part of Your Marketing Mix: In 2012, more than a billion dollars was spent on marketing related to March Madness, surpassing even the Super Bowl. Social Media continues to take a bigger piece of that pie as sponsors engage customers with promotions like Northwestern Mutual’s Bracket Challenge. The NCAA and ESPN get in on the action with a Facebook page (400,000+ fans) and Tournament of Tweets (3 million).
Enjoy March Madness and make your marketing better. Count it. Two points for you.