Three lessons March Madness Teaches Us About Marketing

FGCUYou wouldn’t think a college basketball tournament could capture the country’s attention as much as the NCAA “March Madness” Tournament does every year. Still, even among those who couldn’t care less about basketball, this three-week event is something we plan our work schedules and social events around. And though the event is ostensibly about the glory of sports, lets be honest: March Madness is only partially about basketball.

 The NCAA Tournament says more about human nature, media, and even marketing than mere sports. Small businesses in particular can learn a lot about marketing just by paying casual attention to the games. So even if you can’t tell a buzzer beater from Buzz Williams, there are still a few lessons to use in your marketing campaign.

#1 Bigger is Better
Even though the tournament field consists of 68 teams, basketball analysts usually agree that only a handful of teams have a realistic shot of winning the championship. Nevertheless, the first weekend of the tournament, where the airwaves are tied with wall-to-wall coverage of 48 games in four days, is a constant hit with sports bar enthusiasts and cubicle slackers. Why? Because sometimes quantity is preferable to quality.

Remember this next time you hold an event (business anniversary celebration, clearance sale, giveaway, etc.). Leave modesty to the rest of the year. When the time comes to do something really special it’s worthwhile to go all out. Create an event that will leave customers entertained for hours—if not days. Cram as much activity as your budget can allow. Not all of your fans will return home with whatever product or service you intended to promote, but they should all have a great story to tell about your event. That’s a nice consolation prize.

#2 Everyone Loves an Underdog
Never has a fairy tale been so closely tied to sports as Cinderella is to March Madness. This metaphor for the smaller, less talented schools that somehow advance deeper into the tournament than big household name powerhouses perfectly describes our innate desire to see unexpected heroes rise above monstrous challenges.

In a market dominated by big box stores and national chains, your small business couldn’t be more of an underdog. Embrace the role and take advantage of the things your bigger counterparts can’t. Engage with the community. Practice superior customer service. Like every good underdog, you’ll win the hearts of customers left weary by big names.

#3 Narrative is King
The NCAA Tournament features hundreds of players you couldn’t identify if you were alone in the same room as them. Yet by the final game we will come to know some of them, learn their stories, and eventually root for them to win it all. How does this happen? Sports media has an impeccable way of crafting a player’s biography in such a way that naturally tugs at our heartstrings.

Can you craft a similarly compelling story about your company? It doesn’t need to be a melodramatic tearjerker, but it should educate your customers on the history of you and your brand. That type of information may seem irrelevant, but building connections is the first step to generating business. Here’s a post discussing what should go in every good company bio.

March madness has a way of inspiring the most hardcore sports fan and the completely uninterested TV viewer who misses their regular primetime schedule. Let it inspire your business too. Sadly, we can’t offer you tips on how to deal with the person who can’t stop talking about their bracket. Nobody knows what to do. You have our condolences.

Eric Duncan

Eric Duncan writes about Marketing for TextMarks--The industry leading SMS Marking & Communications platform.

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