With the NCAA Basketball Championship tourney tipping off today, “March Madness” is now in full effect. The occasional cheer will ring through offices for the next few weeks as workers spend time watching games on their laptops and mobile devices, rather than working. Those who don’t have to head into the office might host midday mid-week house parties to watch the games with friends. But offices and normally-quite residences aren’t the only madhouses. Social media is exploding with posts about the tournament and many sports fans’ favorite time of year.
The NCAA Twitter handle — @marchmadness – had roughly 38,000 followers at this time last year. Now, it has more than 175,000. Since Selection Sunday, there have been more than 135,000 Tweets that used the tag “#MarchMadness.” Not surprisingly, it is trending, and most likely will continue to until the tournament is over.
Social media, Twitter in particular, gives everyone from diehard fans to casual observers who just want to be a part of the party a place to vent frustrations, learn more about teams and players, or even argue with others. To say there is a certain emotional appeal to Tweeting about the tourney might be an understatement.
“The tournament has become an event, much like you’d find with the Olympics,” says USA Today publisher Larry Kramer. “There is an element of passion that goes along with this.”
Businesses are also looking to take advantage of the major event and use social media to advance their advertising and marketing campaigns.
As Christopher Heine notes, “It’s March Madness time folks, yet another season ripe for real-time marketing.”
While some companies are responding the games and events as they happen, like New York Life who couldn’t have known that #SetonHall would be trending, others, like Buffalo Wild Wings, have a pre-planned approach. Either way could be beneficial.
“If there’s a way to legitimately tie into a trending hashtag, I think that it’s a great thing to do,” says Scott Trueblood, Owner and CEO at BrandVision Marketing. “However, if you really have to bend things to try and make them fit, they consumers are going to pick up on that, and you’ll lose momentum. A lot of companies have a lot of legitimate ways to tie into things like this, and it’s easier to do with sporting events because they are so prevalent.”
Kantar Media Chief Research Officer Jon Swallen adds that March Madness is “a great brand name” and that, the combination of peoples’ love of sports and the time of year it takes place is a perfect blend for an eruption on social media.
“Baseball season hasn’t started, football is over and professional hockey and basketball playoffs haven’t started yet,” he says. “It’s very easy to focus on this one event without competition from other sports.”
As the tourney progresses, with buzzer-beaters and upsets sure to garner national attention, that will become even more obvious.