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The Real Meaning Behind Tonight’s NCAA Championship

Once upon a time, March Madness was just about basketball and bragging rights. But oh, how that has changed since the growth of social media.

Without a doubt, the ‘new normal’ of basketball fan experience includes the ability to cheer, chat, and stay on top of team news over social media. And while that phenomenon isn’t new in 2014, the rate at which we use social media to enhance our NCAA experience has grown to its highest peak yet. Saturday’s two Final Four games proved this fact, triggering 1.8 million Tweets that had a social reach of 200 Million Twitter followers—an incredible 36% increase over last year’s metrics.

And tonight, we have even more of a cultural phenomenon. A matchup of underdogs, tonight’s NCAA Championship will see 7th-seeded Connecticut take on 8th-seeded Kentucky. This game represents the highest pair of combined seeds playing for the title in NCAA Tournament history. Put simply: tonight is social media marketing cannon fodder.

Which takes us to the real point. The meaning of the NCAA tournament is no longer about ‘just basketball.’ Obviously, the brand opportunities will be plentiful. But social media has changed even the meaning of the game itself:

  • Forbes reported that ad spending on the tournament has increased 64% over the past two years (now even exceeding that of the Super Bowl), due to rapidly-growing fan engagement over social media.
  • Both Connecticut and Kentucky have already generated almost $2 million each from their tournament success this year, a number that would only be possible with the growth of fan interest.
  • Last year, NCAA Champion Louisville was deemed the most valuable college basketball program in the country (worth a total of $39.5 million).

What these stats tell us is that social media engagement, in its way, can impact revenue streams. As a precursor to advertising opportunities, social media spikes showcase how many people (aka potential consumers) are involved in the same cultural conversation.

Clearly, social media now plays an integral role when it comes to cultural sporting events. And this means that if you’re a brand, business, or social media marketer, tonight is the night to get your messaging out—assuming it’s properly aligned to the conversation, of course. You can do that by gamifying (some brands have chosen to create sweepstakes or polls), sending out a graphically-rich and game-related advertisement, or just being a part of the conversation with your own customers.

So whether you’re a basketball lover, an advertiser, or just a business with a social media marketing message, remember this: the real meaning of tonight’s championship is opportunity.


Want to take advantage of the opportunity? Check out our March Madness Social Hub to stay on top of every trending conversation, all from one place!


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