- AT&T, Buffalo Wild Wings and Infiniti ran some of the top social media campaigns during the NCAA college men's basketball tournament, according to competitive intelligence platform BrandTotal. The brands, which are all official sponsors of the sports league, aimed to reach basketball fans who turned to platforms like Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to get updates and share posts about the tournament.
- AT&T focused its social media efforts on YouTube, which carried 69% of the telecom giant's ads, compared with 21% on Instagram and 9% on Facebook, per BrandTotal. AT&T saw the most engagement with an Instagram "dark post" that targeted a select audience and not visible to the general public. AT&T's March Madness efforts saw a positive sentiment of 45% and a negative sentiment of 18%.
- Buffalo Wild Wings split its March Madness ads nearly evenly among Instagram (39%), Facebook (31%) and Twitter (30%). The sports bar chain's most-viewed spot was an Instagram dark post that snagged more than 12,000 likes. Infiniti, however, focused its efforts more on Instagram (85%) and Facebook (14%). The carmaker urged social media users to post trick shots videos with the hashtags #TIMEOUTFTW and #INFINITICONTEST for a chance to win a trip to attend the Final Four.
March Madness captures the second-most amount of sponsorship dollars after the NFL's post-season, and brands seek to supplement their TV campaigns with a heavy presence on social media. The BrandTotal report demonstrates the need for brands to diversify their marketing mix to introduce campaigns to different audiences, reinforcing their messages and seeking engagement across social channels and other media platforms.
Many social media users have positive associations with the basketball tournament, making it a relatively brand-safe environment for sponsorships. BrandTotal observed that 33% of the social media comments about March Madness were positive, compared with 19% that expressed negative sentiment.
The NCAA's official March Madness account, @MarchMadness, also was active on social media channels during the tournament. Its media breakdown consisted of YouTube (46%), Instagram (32%), Facebook (12%) and Twitter (10%). Instagram ads were focused on brand awareness and purchase consideration, while YouTube ads were entirely focused on conversion, or urging viewers to watch the games.
Buffalo Wild Wings was especially active during March Madness, encouraging fans to visit its bars and restaurants to watch wall-to-wall game coverage. The chain recruited several all-star players for an Instagram Stories push that aimed to shame fans for not tuning in to the games. The chain's marketing push also included the introduction of the "Jewel Stool," a custom barstool with a cooling system built into the seat. The stool was created for the reported rise in vasectomies among men who schedule their recovery time during the tournament, although the gimmicky product seems to be built more with social media virality in mind than actual medical care or sales.