The Madness of March: How Some Advertisers are Trying to Cash In

A year ago, America was devastated when the 2020 NCAA March Madness Tournament was cancelled, one of the first major events halted by the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases. Now, a year later, March Madness is back. Luckily for the NCAA and its broadcast partners CBS and Turner Sports, the absence of tournament last year did not stop advertisers from buying in this year.

In fact, CBS and Turner Sports will reap record-high ad sales revenue from March Madness. More than 100 advertisers have bought spots this year, and of those, 40 are newcomers to March Madness. Companies like Aflac, Invesco and Great Clips joined the list of corporate partners in 2020 but had to wait a year to make their debuts.

Advertisers innovated by building a strong digital strategy to enhance their presence.

Nissan Is Broadening its Presence Through Digital

  • Nissan is offering unique game commentary specifically for “casual” fans, to create more fun and engaging experience.
  • “Auto Thrill” is Nissan’s online bracket challenge where participants can win a 2021 Nissan Rogue and tickets to the 2022 Final Four. Select fans will get to participate in a call with former NBA player Kenny Smith to get tips for filling out their brackets.
  • Nissan is hosting a virtual dunking contest with professional basketball players while viewers get to vote for their favorite dunks.

Uber Eats is Taking Advantage of Quarantine

  • Uber Eats is encouraging fans to stay at home with a special “buy one, get one” deal to kick off the tournament.

Wendy’s Is Re-launching Their Breakfast Menu and Leaning in to Quarantine

  • Wendy’s is promoting its breakfast menu—last year’s planned promotion was derailed due to the pandemic. Fans can expect to see hilarious Wendy’s commercials throughout the tournament featuring Reggie Miller.
  • To celebrate the start of the tournament, Wendy’s is offering free honey butter chicken biscuit sandwiches from March 18-20.
  • Wendy’s brokered deals with third-party delivery providers and will be hosting Twitter watch parties.

March Madness commercials may not be “must see TV” like Super Bowl’s breaks, but advertisers are leveraging it as a key event to place ads. March Madness was one of the “original streamers” for live sports. With brackets, so many ways to watch through digital channels, and a progressive story arc, advertisers must use a multi-channel approach to take advantage of the opportunities that surround the tournament.

After a year off, advertisers are banking on lots of eyeballs. While blue-bloods like Duke and Kentucky are not in the tournament this year, the “Caldarella” teams may bring in more casual viewers than ever before.

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