Turner Sports unveils Instagram AR game for March Madness
- Turner Sports unveiled a mobile game that lets college basketball fans work out their March Madness frustrations by shooting virtual baskets, per an announcement shared with Mobile Marketer. Instead of tossing a basketball into a hoop, players have 20 seconds to throw as many crumpled pieces of paper representing their broken brackets as they can into a digital trash can.
- The game uses augmented reality (AR), which overlays digital images on the real views of a smartphone camera, to show the game on any mobile device that has Facebook's Instagram image-sharing app installed. To play, Instagram users need to follow the @marchmadness account, open the effects tray in Stories and select the filter with the blue "March Madness" logo at the bottom of the screen.
- Turner also is using the Instagram Student Section to gather content for the March Madness account on Instagram. The student section gives college students tools and training to improve their social media marketing skills. Participating schools nominate a student, or multiple students, to take over their accounts’ Instagram Stories on gamedays.
One of the most engaging activities associated with the NCAA men's college basketball tournament is filling out brackets with predictions of which teams will win, winnowing down 68 teams to a single champion. The biggest challenge is to create a perfect bracket that predicts every game correctly, although fans have a one-in-9.2 quintillion chance of doing so. That means there are plenty of busted brackets as underdog teams triumph unexpectedly. Turner Sports' AR videogame is an amusing way to connect with those fans, some of whom may be participating in betting pools for a chance to win a cash prize. The NCAA's website lets fans create brackets that can be tracked to see if anyone has made a perfect call on all 67 games in the tournament.
Turner also can connect with college students who follow the Instagram accounts of their school teams. By including the content from the Instagram Student Section in the @marchmadness account, Turner is giving budding influencers a chance for greater exposure on the image-sharing platform, which has about 1 billion users worldwide. The @marchmadness account has 452,000 followers and shows video highlights, interviews, player profiles and game schedules throughout the tournament, which started on March 19 and runs through April 8.
Turner's game is notable for using Instagram Stories, unlike other AR hoops experiences, including the NBA’s pop-a-shot game that in 2017 was one of the first apps to use Apple's ARKit to create an immersive game experience for basketball fans. The Cleveland Cavaliers also had an AR pop-a-shot mobile app game for the start of the playoffs earlier that year. Instagram's parent company Facebook has experimented with gaming content to appeal to mobile users. Facebook last week added a dedicated gaming tab to its mobile app and has games on its Messenger app.
March Madness presents an opportunity for brands to engage with fans of college basketball during the month-long tournament. Turner Sports' AR game joins March Madness activations by P&G's Bounty, Acura and more. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament last year spurred more than $1.32 billion in national TV ad spending, compared to $1.68 billion for the NFL's post-season, according to WPP's Kantar unit.