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NCAA March Madness reveals growing role for Snapchat in sports marketing


Coca-Cola, Reese?s and other brands will leverage Snapchat and other social platforms to engage fans during the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament broadcast that is jointly produced by CBS Sports and Turner Sports. On the heels of its role in the Super Bowl in January, Snapchat?s growing prominence in the winter college basketball classic points to how marketers increasingly recognize that letting user generated content flow is a key way to engage fans on mobile.

?The 2015 NCAA Division I Men?s Championship is social by nature, from the building and busting of brackets to Cinderella teams and great plays,? said Jeff Mirman, vice president of marketing for Turner Sports, a unit of Turner Broadcasting System, Atlanta, GA. 

?Snapchat is one of many social platforms with which Turner Sports is partnering to support our main digital offerings around the tournament which include March Madness Live, NCAA.com, Bleacher Report and CBSSports.com,? he said.

Large-scale broadcasting
Turner is responsible for sports broadcasts on channels including TBS, TNT, and TruTV, and for operating NCAA.com. March Madness drew more than 60 million viewers last year and averaged an audience of 10.7 million per game. 
 
Snapchat, like Twitter, is becoming synonymous with news and large-scale broadcasting. The platform can record and report live experiences at the games, allowing people who are not at the event to feel they are part of it. 

Increasing purchase intent via social.

?People can engage by adding videos and pictures to their Snapchat Stories and get involved in a real-time conversation by live tweeting at the events,? said Esha Shah, manager of mobile and strategy at Fetch. ?People who aren't at the actual games can get real-time updates, so social media platforms can not only inform users about the current happenings but they can also inspire conversation and engagement.?

Twitter is where the live conversation happens, and Snapchat is quickly evolving into an in-the-moment platform, thanks in part to shared stories.

?Fans are intently watching the games live on TV and following along online,? said Jenna Camann, social strategy director with DigitasLBi. ?It?s up to NCAA, the teams and partners of NCAA to bring a unique view to those fans, and to celebrate fans? social participation in the games. 

?There?s a special sense of school pride throughout the country during March Madness,? she said. ?The user generated content created during those weeks should be reshared and celebrated by the league and partners.?

Statistics show that social brand extensions can be effective in March Madness campaigns. For one thing, exposure to March Madness ads appears to increase purchase intent. 

An audience of 300,000 known March Madness fans increased their intent-to-purchase conversation, in aggregate, across all brands and categories, by eight  percent during, and immediately after, the tournament's three-week viewing period last year.

A baseline comparison audience increased intent-to-purchase conversation only 2.4 percent during the same time frame. 

In 2014, clothing and fashion brands dominated conversation, with male interest in athletic shoes and jerseys and female purchase intent around athletic and non-athletic clothing brands equally prevalent.

?We can expect to see the major sports apparel brands such as Nike and Adidas to perform well [in this year?s tourney],? said Rick Miller, vice president with the customer insights group of Networked Insights. 

?March Madness sponsors such as Coca Cola and Reese?s will likely extend their branding to social media as well.?

Consumer product brands, sports brands, electronics and restaurants or places to eat, drink and watch the game are the most likely participants in the football showcase.

Last year, brands such as Burger King, Capital One, Reese?s and Enterprise accumulated mentions through contests that encouraged social sharing. Buffalo Wild Wings seemed to benefit the most from organic mentions, with people talking about eating there while watching games or mentioning their commercials.

Physical experiences
Besides Coca-Cola, other brands likely to be big players in March Madness social networking include ATT, Capital One, Allstate, Buffalo Wild Wings, Buick and Burger King. The list also could include Enterprise, Infiniti, Lowes, Nabisco, Reeses, Unilever and UPS.

?Snapchat is actively looking to connect and extend physical experiences digitally,? said Tom Edwards, The Marketing Arm. ?With their our-story product, they are looking to provide brands with an opportunity to authentically connect their brand with content being created by event goers.

Creating an authentic connection with fans.

?With an event such as March Madness you will see everything from on-site activations to digital sweeps,? he said. ?Brands that can create an authentic connection with the fan and provide fun and engaging creative that moves the viewer from consumption to creation behaviors will have a leg up. ? 

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York