March Madness bracket ads need more madness

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This is the first year that I've paid attention to the marketing that surrounds filling out my NCAA tournament brackets. Having paid attention, I see how oblivious I'd been.

When you register an account to set up your bracket (likely on ESPN.com or, in my case, CBSSports.com), there's the standard e-mail opt-in request. Then when you sign up for a sponsored contest, there's the advertiser's e-mail opt-in. Then once you've participated in that sponsored contest, there's the prompt to share your participation on Facebook and Twitter.

My first thought when actually minding the marketing was that I mind the marketing. Did NASCAR inspired the interface? But then I mulled it over and realized I was overreacting. Outside of the social media prompt, none of the marketing was that disruptive. Squinting to read the small type would have accounted for most of the e-mail opt-in effort. And even the social media prompt wasn't objectionable.

This year Infiniti is sponsoring two of CBSSports.com's bracket contests. As part of the sponsorship, the car company is donating up to $500,000 to Coaches vs. Cancer (a great cause many college basketball fans are familiar with through its annual tournament at the start of the season). So if you choose to share your picks with your Facebook and Twitter friends, the default messaging from Infiniti asks your friends or followers to “Help Infiniti donate to Coaches vs. Cancer….” Again, not objectionable.

And that's the point and the problem for March Madness marketers. When every facet of the tournament feels sponsored, consumers numb themselves to the ads. If it weren't for working at DMNews, I'd have a better shot naming who's going to win the tournament than who's sponsoring it. I didn't even notice that Infiniti's sponsorship benefits Coaches vs. Cancer until I clicked through the social prompt and read the default message. And, again, were it not for my job, I wouldn't have even done that. I would have clicked away, oblivious to the cause, a non-action that would have been objectionable.

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Founded in September 2009, Stirista is an integrated marketing agency that specializes in micro-targeting via traditional and digital channels. Our mission is to help companies, non-profits, and universities alike find new prospects and better understand their existing contacts. We are on the preferred vendor list for a handful of Fortune 500 companies with three of the ten largest companies in the world turning to us for marketing insights. To put it simply, we're young (at least at heart), ambitious, and sometimes impulsive-but always hungry for new ideas.

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