Brands Embrace the (March) Madness
Mar 17, 2009,
Brian Quinton for PROMO Xtra
Both Vitaminwater and KFC are taking to the hardwood again with repeats of last year’s NCAA online promotions.
This year roundball fans have a wider range of choices than ever for following their favorite picks in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, a/k/a “March Madness.” Those far from a TV—or at work—will be able to check their stats and bracket picks online, in social networks and via mobile.
And they’ll do so in branded environments. Brands know visitors to those sites are already growing before the March 19 tipoff and will only increase until the final championship match on April 6 in Detroit. And they’re hurrying to garner some of that attention by sponsoring those sites.
For example, KFC, formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken, is playing a return engagement as the sponsor of the “Tournament Pick’ Em” game on the Yahoo Sports Web site. As in last year’s promotion, fans can create brackets for their picks in each NCAA round and register to win a $1,000,000 prize from yahoo for correctly picking all 63 matches, or a $10,000 award for coming closest to a perfect pick. In addition, they can print out those bracket choices and take the result to a participating KFC for discounts on hot wings and other menu items.
Press reports quoted Yahoo regional sales vice president Chris Karl as saying that KFC was so pleased with the results of its sponsorship of the Yahoo Pick’em feature during last year’s playoffs that it had decided this year to put all its NCAA tourney online ad budget into the promotion.
On the site KFC A 15-second TV spot for KFC serves as a pre-roll ad before video of the tournament highlight plays and while the visitor’s brackets are printing.
Meanwhile, social network MySpace is teaming up with Coca-Cola’s Vitaminwater energy brand to offer the MySpace Bracket Challenge. Registered players will compete to predict the outcome of each tournament round and to earn standing based on the correctness of their picks. At the end of the tournament final, the players with the most accurate bracket picks will be declared the winner and awarded a grand prize of $10,000.
Vitaminwater will sponsor some of the additional content at the site, including observations and sample picks from recognized players such as basketball starts Chris Paul, Ray Allen and David Lee.
Other added content will also be available at the MySpace site, including tournament news from FoxSports.com provided by MSN, a simulator application from WhatIfSports.com that can help predict the outcome of game matchups, and a video gallery by Mojo.com of past NCAA legends. Players at the MySpace page can measure their bracket-picking abilities against those of their MySpace friends.
They will also be able to track March Madness games via their mobile phones, thanks to a partnership between MySpace and mobile message services provider 4Info. Users who enter their cell numbers can get final scores text messaged to their mobile phones and can receive alert notices if it looks like an upset is about to occur.
Finally Papa John’s, which is the official pizza of NCAA March Madness, is offering fans who friend the pizza maker on Facebook a chance to win two tickets to this Final Four tournament round, to be held in Detroit April 4-6.
Visitors 18 and over who want a shot at the tickets must go to the chain’s profile page and sign up to friend Papa John’s between March 16 to March 24.
The company promoted the campaign with ads on Facebook on Monday, the day the Division I men’s Basketball Championship field was announced by the NCAA.
It’s the first promotion Papa John’s has launched entirely on Facebook and builds on an offer Papa John’s made late last year to give a free medium pizza to all new Facebook fans. That campaign wound up gaining the Louisville KY-based chain more than 170,000 friends within 24 hours.