March Madness: inspiring cross-platform campaigns from the U.S.

The month of March ushers in the closing period of the Premiership and commencement of training for all cricketers of the country. However, across the Atlantic it means one thing: March Madness, the annual College basketball tournament which continues to garner huge interest, captivating a TV and, increasingly, a social media audience. This provides an opportunity for brands to get in on the action as official sponsors or otherwise. To put the scale of March Madness in perspective, the TV deal with the governing body the NCAA is currently $10.8 billion over 14 years (bear in mind that’s just 14 months’ worth of coverage!). Although all current activity is primarily for the U.S. market, I thought it would be interesting to run down some of the innovative campaigns over this period, as brands look to integrate their promotions across of forms of media.

Coca-Cola has introduced a multitude of platforms to encourage engagement via social media, including texts for prizes during live games, and is also the sponsor of the official social arena, which allows fans to share game content and discuss games with others, accessed via the Coke Zero website.

It has also used the opportunity to invest in the marketing of its energy drink Powerade, launching a commercial alongside a Facebook page which offers the chance to win tickets to the Final Game. In addition, they have also teamed up with convenience store chain 7Eleven to produce souvenir cups which hold a QR code providing a link to the Powerade website and a video of a selected memorable moment of the tournament, hosted by former players.

The Nissan-owned car firm Infinity has launched a campaign involving social marketing and philanthropy. Announced via a promoted tweet, it promises to donate money to the American Cancer Society for every correct tournament bracket pick made via its website. 

Other sponsors Dominos, Reeces and UPS find their Facebook pages now dominated by March Madness, with opportunities for prizes, encouraging engagement with the brands page during games.

Unilever launched Dove’s ‘Journey to comfort’ campaign featuring stories from former and current basketball players. The ad is accompanied by a Facebook page where people are encouraged to share their own stories, a dedictated website and also an app which allows you to send a personal message to Shaq (featured below), interacting with the brand and the personality.

As you can see, these ‘corporate champions’ have come up with some original ideas, enabling them to engage the consumer by idenfiying shared values and or interests despite there being no immediate connection to basketball itself. They provide inspiration for future campaigns focused on cross platform engagement.

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Digital uptake in the UK

For the 6th year in a row Ofcom has published comparative international data on the communications sector.  They state that the “aim of the report is to benchmark the UK communications sector against a range of comparator countries in order to assess how the UK is performing in an international context”. So how are we doing?

There is strong evidence that when it comes to all things digital, we are leading the way internationally.

  • People in the UK spend an average of 746 minutes a week online, longer than any of the leading economies except the USA
  • Digital TV penetration is higher than anywhere else in Europe with 97% of households receiving more than just the five basic channels
  • 27% of people watch TV online every week, compared to only 23% in the USA
  • Smartphone penetration has reached 46%, up from 24% last year and higher than any other European country (and the USA)
  • The UK spends more time on online retail sites (average of 84 mins a month) and are more likely to buy (79% have ordered goods online, more  than any of the other 12 countries questioned)
  • The Daily Mail and the Guardian websites are the most popular newspaper websites in Europe
  • In the UK, the US and France, more than one in eight Internet users use a games console to access the Internet, and tablet computers are used by between 6% and 9% of Internet users

However, the situation is not all rosy. Despite strong take up of current technologies by British consumers, new technologies are stumbling in the UK compared to other countries.

  • Next-generation mobile services, which will make mobile surfing much faster, are struggling as mobile operators’ rows mean the auction of the airways to facilitate such services is unlikely to happen until the second half of 2012, while some other European countries have already held their 4G spectrum auctions.
  • Alongside this, Superfast services (above 24Mbps per second) are lagging behind in Europe with only 4% of UK households using such services (the highest in Europe), compared to 40% in Japan and 10% in the USA.

Overall, the report suggests that the UK public is increasingly moving towards digital lives – something advertisers need to be, and are, aware of – but the UK is at risk of falling behind international competitors unless we ensure that the new Superfast technologies are promoted and invested in now.

The report can be found at:

http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/research/cmr/cmr11/icmr/ICMR2011.pdf