March Madness is back. While fans are busy filling out brackets and joining various pools, there's also a marketing frenzy going on behind the scenes.

The Super Bowl reigns as the biggest sports and marketing combination, but its spot is not entirely solid. With NFL ratings dipping, political controversies taking center stage and health concerns over concussions dominating football related discourse, a new sport is gaining momentum: basketball.

Instead of one night of supremely expensive advertising spots, March Madness provides marketers a marathon month to run campaigns.

Even if one were to include the 11 NFL playoff games into their marketing strategies, it's no comparison to the opportunity afforded by the 67 NCAA games that will take place during March Madness.

Food Lion

Food Lion is a great companion for March Madness because, after all, few things go better with a March Madness game than a plethora of tasty food. With a rough winter still reeling its ugly head all over the continental U.S., basketball fans are enjoying games indoors.

Not to mention, March Madness spurs multitudes of casual parties where guests need to eat. Add a predilection for copious amounts of alcohol to be consumed at these events, and you have a boon for food companies like Food Lion.

Food Lion takes a multifaceted approach to March Madness marketing. They created a charitable hashtag campaign--#FLFMealMadnessContest--with the goal of providing 125,000 meals to those struggling financially. This campaign fosters good-will with their community while also remaining interactive on a digital platform.

Sixteen food banks were drafted to compete against each other via social media likes and buzz. This idea ensures Food Lion will get coverage from various potential consumers, as the competition is mentioned to the food banks corresponding followers. The food banks go head to head in the same style as the college teams in March Madness.

Food Lion is also running a promotion directed at consumers. By purchasing participating products, buyers can earn up to $40 off their bill.

The promotion embraces the discounts as a way to "score" at their stores and has a playful connotation that stands out against a regular $40 off coupon. For every $30, $5 is taken off their food bill.

Pizza Hut

For families and friends not looking to make a day of food preparation or for those incapable of creating a feast without the fire alarm ringing, Pizza Hut will deliver warm pies dripping with dairy and carbohydrates. Pizza delivery is a staple for game days.

Pizza Hut's "pie top" shoe intrigue begins with a 30-second commercial explaining the revolutionary invention--a shoe that orders pizza.

The original idea began last year, but this year Pizza Hut partnered with HypeBeast to drive up the anticipation of the distinctive fashion statement. This ingenuity pulls in an audience focused on pop culture, the perfect target for March Madness marketing.

This year's update to the shoes is the capability to pause live TV. Lucky wearers of the magical shoes will not miss a second of the game while serving the pizza.

The Pie Top II shoe campaign combines with a larger strategy for Pizza Hut. The company spent the past year heavily investing in their mobile strategy by offering text updates via their mobile app and hiring thousands of additional delivery drivers. Convenience is the golden standard for their marketing audience.

Digital Avenues Give Opportunity

Innovative marketers notice that a large swath of the March Madness crowd is young and tech-savvy.

Turner Sports streams all the games online with commercials. This provides an additional opportunity to buy ad space--along with the digital brackets themselves.

More so, it provides an opportunity to embrace virtual reality broadcasting by thinking outside of the typical marketing possibilities.

While many companies place ads along the sides of bracket pages or live-stream pages, they might be looking to switch things up as other companies begin to dabble in a variety of creative VR marketing campaigns.

Finally, the social media frontier offers a way for marketers to craft viral campaigns.

In 2016, Allstate created a #MarchMayhem hashtag on Twitter where they had former astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Dick Vitale square off against each other. The two men tweeted their predictions and musings on upcoming NCAA games.

March Madness month is a huge opportunity for companies with long-term campaign strategies.

By using various mediums, companies can craft innovative brand awareness campaigns with a good return on investment.

Published on: Mar 20, 2018