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Marketers tap into mobile?s always-on characteristic for March Madness opportunities

Mobile will give sports fans 24/7 access to March Madness this year with live streaming and second-screen initiatives.

Turner Sports, which produces NCAA March Madness Live, is again offering a mobile application this year that live streams all 67 March Madness games, pointing to the growing need from consumers to watch content from smartphones and tablets. Brands including Coca-Cola, Capital One and Buick are banking on mobile as a way to break into the March Madness marketing frenzy.

?There are more devices out there with better connectivity and live video quality continues to improve on the smaller screens,? said Mark Johnson, vice president of business operations at Turner Sports, Atlanta.

?More and more fans are using mobile devices inside and outside of the home which becomes a complement to our television coverage, not competitive,? he said.

Mobile viewing
For the NCAA , mobile is playing a big role in how consumers stay plugged into games this year.

The NCAA March Madness Live app is available for  iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Android smartphones and Android tablets.

Radio streaming is also available for all games with the app.

For games that are broadcast on CBS, content is free. Games on Turner?s cable networks - which include TBS, TNT and truTV ? is available for consumers with a cable subcription to the channels.

Sports fans can also follow live scores, team and player stats through the app.

When it comes to advertising opportunities, Turner digital ad sales works with CBS ad sales. Co-presenting advertisers involved in the NCAA March Madness Live app include AT&T, Buick, Capital One, Coca-Cola?s Coke Zero, Infiniti and LG Electronics USA.

Buick, Capital One and Coke Zero are sponsoring the iOS app. AT&T, Infiniti and LG Electronics USA are sponsoring the Android version.

Consumers can also participate in the Capital One NCAA March Madness Bracket Challenge via the app to track their picks.

Social is mobile
According to Dave Martin, senior vice president of media at Ignited, El Segundo, CA, social media will be one of the biggest areas for marketers to incorporate mobile into their marketing this year, especially as the tournament heats up.

?Generally we expect to see a spike in mobile usage around the tournament, simply because there are so many fans who cannot access their TV screen during most of the games,? Mr. Martin said.

?They?ll be forced to engage through other platforms if they want to stay ahead of what?s happening,? he said.

?There will be live viewing, brackets and other bracket-like promotions all running on handsets.?

There are three types of social engagements that Mr. Martin predicts will be used for marketing around March Madness.  

The first is around sponsoring tournament coverage. For example, Coca-Cola?s Coke Zero is sponsoring a social media feed section inside the tournament?s official mobile app (see story).

Meanwhile, other brands are creating their own brackets with branded content on sites and apps. For example, a marketer might take the top 64 shoe brands and have consumers vote for their favorite to pick up on some of the buzz from the ongoing games.

The last type of engagement is with content creation. Brands are using Instagram, Vine and Pinterest to create original content more this year, per Mr. Martin.

The NCAA March Madness Live app

In the game
ESPN is also ramping up its mobile offerings this year for sports fans.

The company has updated its ESPN Bracket Bound app for iPhone and Android devices with new features that let users follow their favorite teams with customized content.

Consumers can create up to ten different brackets and compete with friends and family in ESPN?s Tournament Challenge.

Additionally, the app includes video analysis and game information for fans.

There is also a special section on ESPN?s mobile site for NCAA March Madness coverage.

Taco Bell, Acura and Allstate are the presenting advertisers of ESPN?s Tournament Challenge, which includes both mobile and desktop campaigns.

All three brands are running banner ads on ESPN?s mobile site and in the ESPN Bracket Bound app.

Taco Bell, for example, is promoting its new Doritos Cool Ranch tacos with banner ads that feature the products. When tapped on, the banner ads pull up the store locator page from Taco Bell?s mobile site to help consumers find a nearby restaurant.

Meanwhile, Acura is pushing its 2014 RLX sedan. The car brand is running both interstitial and banner ads that direct consumers to Acura?s mobile site.

ESPN is also encouraging sports fans to sign-up for its ESPN Alerts SMS program to receive real-time information on game standings and breaking news.

Mobile tagging
Shazam is also carving out an important role this year in how consumers interact with second-screen content this year.

All of the on-air broadcasts during March Madness can be used in conjunction with the Shazam app.

To unlock content, consumers open the Shazam app, which then uses audio recognition to pick up that consumers are watching an NCAA game.

From there, consumers can access information about the games and statistics on players.

Additionally, LG Electronics is sponsoring themed content with Shazam. Consumers who Shazam a LG TV commercial can enter to win a trip to Atlanta for the Final Four tournament.

There is also a music bracket in the app that integrates 64 popular Shazam songs. Consumers can vote for their favorite songs that will narrowed down to the Final Four.

?One of the things we've noticed for years is that people have always used the service to tag television to find out the music that is featured in the ads or shows,? said David Jones, executive vice president of marketing at Shazam, London.

?Since we officially expanded the service to include television shows and ads in 2011, we?ve seen ongoing growth and engagement as more and more people check out the second screen experience that we offer,? he said.

?This is the first year that we have developed a dedicated second-screen experience for the tournament. We think that fans will love the extra content and fun interactive interface.?

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York