March Madness 2017: 3 Lessons
March is one of the most exciting months of the year for basketball fans, a time when the elite men’s and women’s college teams face off in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) tournaments. With the fervor of 2017′s March Madness passed, sport management and marketing experts can analyze the period’s successes and failures.
Automotive Brands Benefit From March Madness
Automotive brands saw increased online interest during March Madness, according to Tanya Gazdik of MarketingDaily. Online traffic predictably dropped during gameplay for websites like Autotrader. Yet during this period, quality visits, visits, and vehicle detail page (VDP) views for automotive brands advertising during March Madness (Buick, Infiniti, Acura, and Alfa Romeo) increased.
Alfa Romeo enjoyed the most marked increase in VDP views, with a 22 percent average rise (14% from desktop and 37.5% from mobile) on Autotrader and Dealer.com compared to the previous two weekends. Gazdik theorized Alfa Romeo performed so well as it had already built momentum advertising with its Giulia campaign during the Super Bowl. She noted the luxury brand achieved these results through a mix of traditional and digital marketing efforts.
Cox Automotive Media, which oversees Autotrader and other brands like Kelley Blue Book, reported greater mobile traffic for all advertised car brands, not just Alfa Romeo. This points to the greater potential of mobile marketing during major sporting events at a time when, according to Jeff Urban of Engage: Millennials, 87 percent of people use a second screen while watching TV.
“Sites like Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book and dealership websites ‘ride out’ the initial dip in traffic and spend money to influence these audiences when they aren’t actively searching for a car,” Jessica Stafford, the vice president of Cox Automotive Media, told Ms. Gazdik. “That’s where the non-endemic, or not immediately discernible, marketing takes place and provides a powerful ROI [return on investment].”
Cox Automotive Media’s results showed the potential of leveraging sporting events for increased engagement with mobile marketing content. However, Ms. Gazdik said that mobile content must be creative to cut through during sporting events and memorable enough to trigger recall after the game, when sports fans make purchase decisions.
“This is where social and mobile elements become critical: if your brand can connect to the individual in some way, such as gaming experiences paired with social targeting tactics, that recall becomes much more likely to happen,” Ms. Stafford told MarketingDaily.
Keeping Athletes Focused on Positive Behavior Can Limit Scandals
Public relations specialists with training in sport management have become more important as social media make athletes more accessible to the public, according to Adelphi University. Sport management graduates focused on pursuing a public relations degree would be interested to note the NCAA’s efforts to minimize scandals during March Madness.
The association established study halls in its team hotels, conference areas, and dining rooms to help the student athletes meet their academic requirements, according to Anthony Chiusano of the NCAA.
“The older guys try to keep the younger guys focused and on top of their work when it comes down to tournament time,” one student, Kyle Davis, told Chiusano. “At the end of the day for most of us, basketball is everything, but we still need to get that education.”
Between study, games, practice sessions, and media commitments, the student athletes had little time for scandalous behaviors. While professional athletes don’t typically have the same educational requirements, providing another positive focus, such as charity work, could help their sport managers and public relations teams limit opportunities for scandals.
Website Glitch Damaged the CBS Sports Brand
March Madness represents a powerful opportunity to connect with basketball fans for its major broadcasters, ESPN and CBS. While viewers celebrated ESPN’s efforts, with 60 percent positive commentary, according to Amit Avner of The Drum, CBS Sports followers were less supportive, with just 39 percent positive online commentary.
Much of the criticism came following a significant CBSSports.com outage at 11 a.m. on Thursday March 16, an hour before the start of the day’s first game. This technical glitch occurred when many people were attempting to complete their tournament brackets before the noon deadline, according to Tom Huddleston, Jr. of Fortune.
“During the hour before the first tip, service was down due to overwhelming demand,” a CBS Sports Digital spokesperson confirmed in a statement issued approximately two hours after the website failure. “We certainly regret the outage but are pleased to say that service has since been restored.”
By waiting to inform customers until the website outage was resolved, CBS Sports missed several key communication opportunities, according to Davina Kristi Brewer, a consultant at 3Hats Communications. She told Jennifer Lonoff Schiff of CIO that businesses should use social media to “be proactive.”
“When something’s going on, get out in front [of it],” she encourages businesses. “If your website is down, let people know via social that you’re aware of the problem, that you’re working on it [and] when you expect it to be corrected.”
Perhaps if CBS Sports had followed this advice and communicated openly within the hours of technical difficulties, it wouldn’t have faced such Twitter backlash.
“I’ve been trying to sign into @CBSSports for the last 2 hours to fill out my bracket, but haven’t been able to sign in,” Twitter user Greg Lundquist tweeted. “Nice work, CBS.”
His was one of many complaints about the online glitch.
CBS Sports’ failure indicates the importance of reliable website solutions, particularly during times of peak usage. As a major broadcaster, CBS should have anticipated the demand for its online service and ensured that it wouldn’t fail. Its response should also have been swifter and more transparent to minimize the damage to its reputation.
To develop your understanding of the management and marketing aspects of March Madness and other key sporting periods, consider studying for a sport management degree online. Adelphi University’s Online Master of Science in Sport Management helps prepare students for leadership positions in sports.