March Madness is a Marketer’s Game: The Best Times to Connect with Millennials

Posted by: Bobby Golen

Brackets are busted, favorites have fallen and the clock struck midnight for many Cinderella stories. Such is life in the NCAA Tournament. Over the course of six days, millions of fans and casual viewers watched as 68 teams whittled down to a mere 16.

With much of the fat trimmed and only the strong teams remaining, we can assume that viewers will see the greater significance of the matches coming these next two weekends and flock to their televisions, digital devices, and radios in even greater numbers. For advertisers, the time to strike is now!

Or so we thought…

According to RealityMine, advertisers adopting the previously described mindset have already missed their greatest opportunities to entertain and engage millennial consumers. The Chicago-based agency used a representative sample of 478 US adults as well as Passive Mobile Behavior Tracking and eDiary applications to study how viewers of the 2014 NCAA Tournament interact with their mobile devices from Selection Sunday until the nets are cut down after the championship game.

Contrary to trends seen in other sports like NFL football where playoffs all build to the final “Big Game”, March Madness engagement peaks the week before a single game is played. Selection Sunday, paired with the Conference Championships also occurring that day, kick starts the feverish media coverage and fan engagement leading up to Second Round games (because let’s be honest, how many of us watched the play-in games?).

Supported by the data collected through Passive Mobile Behavior Tracking, RealityMine created a fairly distinct timeline of viewer engagement:

Sunday: Selection Sunday

Viewers tune in to their TVs or streaming devices to see which teams will play their way into March Madness by winning their respective conference and which teams will be granted passage by omnipotent Selection Committee.

Monday: The day to learn

As viewers scramble to distinguish the contenders and pretenders, they turn to their local sports radio stations for wisdom and guidance.

Tuesday and Wednesday: The strategy sessions

These are the decision-making days. Viewers return to their computers to perform specified research and fill out their brackets.

Thursday: Game Time

Judgment day arrives and viewers, confident that they alone have filled out the perfect brackets, turn to their TVs, computers, mobile devices, and radios to witness the madness begin in earnest.

Contrary to playoffs in other sports, where viewership builds, as teams are eliminated, to a fever-pitch championship match, NCAA Tournament viewership peaks before the first tip-off! As pointed out by RealityMine, the ecstatic momentum demonstrated in these pre-tournament days present a juicy opportunity “to seed content and build anticipation for tip-off with their consumer, not simply wait for the broadcast and its easy, fixed assets.”

But as advertisers fawn over the March Madness observations and recommendations, they must also be aware of the bigger picture.

This study evidences the evermore-prominent presence of data in the advertising world. Analytics are essential to efficient and effective consumer engagement. Brands and agencies that use various tools such as the Passive Mobile Behavior Tracking can intelligently answer the numerous who, where, when, and why questions associated with consumer engagement.

The methods used to gather these specific data are both clever and insightful. Behavior tracking at such a personal level has innumerable functions once an actionable volume of data is collected. Tools of this nature allow brands and agencies to observe how consumers engage with brands, monitor reactions to content, and understand the overall ethnography of their consumers.

This is information that brands must utilize in order to connect with consumers at the right time with the right content – leading us to a space where AgileData reigns supreme and helps us to create completely tailored engagement tactics.

Specifically, advertisers must know not to show up to the Big Dance late or without a hot date (in the form of engaging and entertaining content). In the big picture, however, advertisers must realize that analytics are key to finding that hot date.

About Bobby Golen

As an Analyst at FutureCast, Bobby uses his training in statistical methodology to break down consumer data and uncover otherwise undiscovered insights, helping client partners navigate through a maze of uncertainty. Bobby brings a pragmatic...See Bobby's full bio.