Every year as winter draws to a close and spring (slowly) starts to show its face again, a unique phenomenon sweeps the country. A phenomenon that has even the least sports savvy Americans researching player stats, cheering on teams they may have never even heard of before, and filling out perhaps dozens of brackets.
That phenomenon is known as the NCAA’s March Madness tournament.
These few weeks fill up stadiums and sports bars with fans clambering to see how their picks will fair in the great tournament. Even I, typically a passive sports fan at best, have found myself yelling at screens and biting my nails over close games and unpredictable upsets. (Thanks a lot, Duke.)
But somehow, between the anxiety of watching the NCAA teams fight to the death amidst the sounds of thumping basketballs and squeaking tennis shoes, I have noticed another phenomenon, some impressive March Madness-themed marketing campaigns.
Here are my final four advertiements:
Buffalo Wild Wings
Buffalo Wild Wings did a series of March Madness-themed spots that are all geared toward explaining exactly how the tournament works. This one, where the “expert” demonstrates the fundamentals of the perfect high-five, makes the guys out to look a bit goofy and idiotic, but that is a theme throughout their series.
And, considering their target audience and the typical March Madness watcher, I think they hit the nail on the head. The spot comes off as informative about high-fives in an entertaining – not pretentious – way that audiences will respond to.
About a year ago Alec Baldwin teamed up with Capital One to promote their credit cards; this year former NBA star Charles Barkley joined in to talk about the points he earns on his card in a series of basketball-themed commercials. In this spot, he plays the lovable, overly passive character who is unrecognized despite his fame (and head bobbling abilities).
The result is an entertaining series of ads that speak to the target audience while also being relevant to the tournament and memorable for viewers.
NCAA March Madness
This marks the official “preview” before the tournament really began, and shows off an epic fusion between scenic mountain views, a music video featuring The Killers, sports shots from previous basketball games, and a voice over discussing the ups and downs and the love of the tournament. In a word, badass.
That’s the portrayal and overall feeling associated with this ad, and it is a strong contrast to the “men are dumb” themed commercials that made a strong showing throughout this years March Madness tournament.
The Cinderella Story
I’ll admit, this campaign has nothing to do with the NCAA tournament, but I wanted to mention it anyway for the sheer brilliance of it all; that’s what makes is this year’s biggest commercial upset. Taco Bell recently unveiled their new breakfast menu offer waffle tacos and egg-filled crunch wraps, and their marketing scheme – complete with Ronald McDonalds from all over the country endorsing the new menu items – has created a phenomenon of its own.
This, in combination with an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit with Taco Bell’s President Brian Niccol, has led to what I am sure will be a successful campaign into the A.M. food world. Heck, even I went yesterday to see what the hype was about.
The NCAA has generated more than $1 billion in ad sales, and rightfully so considering the chaos that ensues over these few weeks. The undeniable theme of these commercials is to portray younger men as a little idiotic in a sort of charming, entertaining way.
So stay tuned to see how your bracket turns out in the rest of the basketball tournament, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for those commercials that may just be as impressive as the players!