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3 Slam Dunk March Madness Campaigns

March 11, 2020 Carolyn Harding

Shutterstock_396222472  March 17, 2016 - Spokane, WA: A game ball sits on court the day prior to the start of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament games at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.

March Madness may only come once a year, but, for many sports fans, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is the most exciting competition to hit their screens. Marketers across industries have continued to jump on the basketball bandwagon with creative and innovative campaigns in an effort to expand their audience reach. With the annual event fast-approaching, here are a few slam dunk March Madness campaigns (both new and old) to spark some inspiration.

Buffalo Wild Wings Hosts An Experiential Sleepover

To kick off this year’s tournament, Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW) is hosting an Airbnb-inspired sleepover inside one of its Chicago restaurants. Titled “BnB-Dubs,” the activation encourages March Madness fans to enter to win a two-day stay to watch the tournament's first 32 games. In order to enter, participants must share a video on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #bnbdubscontest​ to prove they are the biggest March Madness fan. Using the tagline “You don't have to go home, and you can stay here,” the user-generated content (UGC) through BWW’s campaign allows the chain to position itself as a top destination for basketball fans, while broadening its audience reach online. This isn’t the first March Madness campaign from BWW, and it surely won’t be the last, as the popular basketball tournament is said to boost overall restaurant sales 2.4%, according to Restaurant Business.

Dove Men+Care Creates Limited-Edition Jerseys

Tobacco Rond Rep the Rivalry Jersey 15 white with one dark blue stripe and one light blue stripe photo from Dove Men+Care

Last year, Unilever's Dove Men+Care took the customized merchandise approach by creating a line of limited-edition jerseys inspired by college basketball rivalries for the March Madness tournament. Each jersey – combining elements of the featured team's heritage and culture – was distributed in surprise locations and made available exclusively to rival fans and former opponents. Using the hashtag #ReptheRivalry, Dove Men+Care played on the love of sports rivalry among fans, but, this time, attempted to bring opposing fans together. According to MarketingDive, the effort from Dove Men+Care was inspired by internal research showing that 98% of men believe positive experiences and environments enhance sports.

Wendy’s Pulls Out All The Stops

Cartoon basketball hoop with note that Wendys is the official hamburger of NCAA March Madness Photo from Wendys

Wendy’s achieved mass consumer engagement through the launch of an interactive bracket on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The fast food chain announced its 2018 March Madness campaign through a video resembling a sports broadcast report, urging fans to tweet #TeamFresh or #TeamFrozen and download Wendy’s mobile app to receive exclusive offers throughout the tournament. Wendy’s led the social engagement for top restaurant affinities with 30,749 social media engagements.

In addition to the heavy social media push, Wendy’s also launched a custom streetwear line – which fans could win through social media giveaways and at local shops throughout the tournament – and a Wendy’s food truck (offering bites and interactive basketball games), which made stops at various tournament locations. Wendy’s generated plenty of social media chatter and capitalized on its ongoing efforts to call out its competitors for their use of frozen meat.

Recognizing the national attention March Madness receives from consumers is key for marketers looking to capitalize on this seasonal event. The amount of chatter surrounding the famous tournament could provide major opportunities for brand outreach and connection with mass audiences — even if there aren’t any fans in the stands at this year’s tournament. Following last year’s March Madness tournament, a survey from Arkadium found 42% of people stated they are more likely to make purchases after viewing a March Madness ad.

“It’s [the purchase power of March Madness fans] a major opportunity for brands and they should be taking advantage online,” said Jessica Rovello, CEO and co-founder of Arkadium.

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About the Author

Carolyn Harding

Carolyn Harding is an Associate Manager of Communications at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), the fastest-growing independent digital performance marketing company. DMS helps its clients accelerate growth by deploying diversified and data-driven customer acquisition solutions that deliver scalable, sustainable and measurable marketing results. DMS performance marketing solutions connect the right consumers with the right offers at the right time to achieve the marketing objectives of our clients. DMS is continually innovating to provide new and emerging media and technology solutions that minimize waste and maximize results across the most competitive industries. Since its inception, DMS has demonstrated incredible year-over-year growth which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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