March Madness is a Slam Dunk For Online Marketing

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Although many would argue that the practices and decisions of the NCAA are prehistoric and out of date, the marketing around March Madness is decidedly 21st century. As the 64 teams were picked, dozens of big name companies have already hopped on Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube to engage basketball fans and potential customers alike in a plethora of basketball-themed promotions. Brands are inventing ways to incorporate their names with the much buzzed about past time of college basketball. And with good reason as five of the ten busiest peak moments ever recorded in Internet history happened during the NCAA Championships.

CBS, who has a stranglehold on the broadcasting of the sporting event, is live streaming games online, on iPhones, and even in 3D in certain theaters around the country. Miller has even whipped up a basketball drinking game via iPhone called Tip N’ Spin that challenges sports fans to balance a basketball on a bottle top to earn points in an ongoing interactive game that will last throughout the tournament.

Coca-Cola’s Coke Zero brand is looking to open a conversation with fans in their Department of Fannovation Brain Bracket. The online forum looks to challenge basketball junkies by gathering their ideas on basketball and how the NCAA could be improved, but in a fun and conversational way. The brand hopes that fans will use the site to exchange views and show team pride while chatting on the site.

Applebee’s restaurants is using social media sites to create a sort of virtual “office pool” where fans of the brand try to pick the winners of all 63 games in hopes of winning $1 million. Other companies like pizza chain Papa John’s are using the month of non-stop basketball games to give away cash to Facebook users with savvy sport knowledge and succinct  prediction skills.

Social media marketing and online marketing makes sense for a sport that somehow still manages to create conversations, headlines, and punchlines.

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