March Madness and Public Relations

March Madness is a time of year when even the most casual college basketball fans find themselves glued to the TV waiting for astonishing upsets and watching the country’s best young talent. The madness is hard to miss—CBS, TNT, TBS and TruTV are the primary channels streaming live NCAA tournament games, with mobile apps and YouTube allowing fans access to the action as well. With this broad, captive audience, advertisers and marketers are provided infinite opportunities to reach new sets of eyeballs—11.3 millions sets, in fact, according to Nielsen numbers from 2015.

Here are just three of the many ways marketers take full advantage of March Madness:

  1. Bracket Competitions

According to chiefmarketer.com, more than 70 million Americans will fill out brackets this year. Several media outlets feature annual challenges for fans to submit their winning picks online and compete with fans across the globe. Groups can be created for individuals to go head-to-head with their closest family or friends, co-workers or classmates. These competitions have been jumped on by marketers and used to promote their companies and organizations. For example, the official NCAA tournament bracket challenge is sponsored by Capital One.

  1. Commercials

Fan-favorite former college basketball players, team mascots and color commentators and play-by-play announcers are all commonplace stars of March Madness advertisements. Back to Capital One, their commercials this year feature director and Knicks superfan Spike Lee, actor and Capital One ad star Samuel L. Jackson and retired player turned analyst Charles Barkley—vastly different personas who are all effective in their marketing roles.

  1. Social Media

The NCAA is one of the best known brands not only in sports but in all of business. With more than a million fans on Facebook and more than 815,000 Twitter followers, according to chiefmarketer.com, the NCAA’s popularity is evident across social media platforms. Fans constantly engage on Twitter among themselves and with sports-related accounts in real-time—praising dunks and chirping airballs, proclaiming victory and lamenting defeat. Snapchat provides behind-the-scenes and in-game access to fans that might otherwise be missed, and YouTube has a “March Madness” channel featuring player, team and game highlights from the tournament. All this social content is, of course, paired with advertisements of all kinds for maximum marketing profit.


Maura Fenske is a junior public relations major, and journalism minor, at Waynesburg University. She serves as Chapter President for the Waynesburg University Public Relations Student Society of America, and as an Account Specialist for Red Brick Communications. Maura hopes to combine her passion for public relations, writing and sports in her future career.

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