Final Four: Brands Who Did March Madness Marketing Best

Whenever there’s a major sporting event, brands will be nearby, piggybacking off the popularity of the events and trying to get in front of as many people as possible. In Indianapolis on April 4, the last four teams in NCAA’s March Madness college basketball tournament will duke it out to see who plays in the championship game. As the tournament comes to a close, ClickZ looked at a month’s worth of brand messages and came up with our own Final Four. 

1. Oreo

Marketing intelligence platform Origami Logic looked at 65 brands with March Madness-related social activity and judged them based on engagement, which they calculated as a sum of likes, favorites, comments, replies, shares, and retweets. Though Twitter, with its frequent, real-time usage, made up nearly three-quarters of the posts, Origami Logic also looked at Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Google+.

Oreo, well-regarded for its consistently creative social, unsurprisingly came in first place with an engagement score of 54,539: nearly 20,000 higher than the second-place brand. Oreo wasn’t the most active brand during March Madness – Degree Men, whose parent company Unilever is an NCAA sponsor, posted 107 times – but the cookie brand made each post count. Together, two Instagram posts about dunking garnered 31,000 likes.


2. Allstate

Far more elaborate than Oreo’s snappy tweets, Allstate launched a few takeovers on sports website Bleacher Report. During the takeovers, Mayhem, the insurance company’s mascot who personifies things going awry, periodically popped up to deliver the bad news about busted brackets. Allstate’s team monitored the games from a “war room,” with many different Vine videos prepared for a variety of outcomes.

“When you think about the tournament, it’s all about these unexpected and unpredictable moments,” says Michelle Stukel, senior manager of digital advertising at Allstate. “What’s more ‘mayhem’ than that? It’s a perfect opportunity to leverage and further close the character Mayhem against the brand.”


3. Buffalo Wild Wings

A pizza chain offering delivery deals on pizza and wings is almost as much of a staple of major sporting events as actually eating pizza and wings. Buffalo Wild Wings poked fun at that in a clever video where a guy asked his buddy over the phone, “You’re going to order pizza…to your home? Do these pizza people bring you rounds of beer, walls of television, and fried pickles?”

Posted on YouTube last month, “Pizza to Your Home?” was first in the restaurant chain’s series of #WingWisdom videos featuring the two guys at Buffalo Wild Wings, an NCAA sponsor branding itself as “The Official Hangout” for the tournament. The subsequent seven videos are equally amusing and include the pair discussing the origin of the phrase “jumping on the bandwagon,” cheese curds being the real Cinderella story, and the number of groins we have.


4. KFC

KFC is another brand that featured prominently in Origami Logic’s rankings. KFC’s engagement score was second to Oreo, though the fried chicken chain was the winner of the most-engaged message category. One funny Facebook update about using your losing bracket as a napkin was liked more than 36,000 times.

“KFC’s success with their Facebook post, shows that non-sponsors have plenty of opportunities to activate,” says Kohki Yamaguchi, head of product at Origami Logic. “The most important factor for brands in driving event activation is whether they can establish a connection between their brand or product with the excitement around the event. Understanding your customers and what they love matters much more than how much you spend.”


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