March Madness is just around the corner. The annual NCAA basketball tournament is one of the biggest events in college athletics, averaging around 12 million viewers per game in recent years. Big games and hot rivalries can net nearly 30 million viewers in some cases.

In 2018, over 97 million people watched the tournament from the First Four to the Final Four. For anyone who’s ever wondered why so many businesses seem to flock to March Madness each year, these numbers are your answer.

As a marketing agency, your company should be invested in March Madness as well. Whether you’ve been riding the wave of March Madness for years or are just starting to look for ways to use the tournament to boost your agency and clients, here are a few tried-and-true suggestions for how you can make the most of the annual tournament.

Online Bracket Contests

Social media is a great tool for companies wanting to increase their contact and brand awareness with consumers. This isn’t always easy to do, but March Madness gives you an amazing opportunity to increase social interactions without a significant investment. Creating tournament brackets is a popular fan activity, and bracket contests are pretty common these days. By leveraging the power of social media, you can take the standard bracket contest and make it even better.

Hosting an online bracket contest and promoting it through social media reduces the cost of the contest and makes it accessible to a larger number of potential customers. Your primary costs will be the cost of prizes that you give out, as your social media platforms and fans sharing contest-related posts will do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.

Basketball-Related Promotions

During March Madness, a lot of NCAA fans have basketball on the brain. You can incorporate this into your advertising and promotions to encourage sports fans to engage with the clients you’re promoting. While there are countless ways to pull this off, here are a few suggestions:

  • Create basketball-themed emails and other advertising
  • Design basketball swag for giveaways (like printed foam basketballs or small items like keychains)
  • Sponsor basketball trivia nights at local sports bars
  • Sponsor spring youth sports events or high school basketball tournaments in the lead-up to March Madness

Just be careful not to take too many creative liberties while creating promotions; March Madness and its related properties are all trademarked terms, so using them without proper licensing could get you in hot water with the NCAA.

Follow the Trends

Every year, #MarchMadness and similar hashtags start trending on social media as fans connect and discuss the games. This is a great time to promote any online contests or other promotions you’re holding, adding the hashtag (and other trending tags) to ride the trending wave to further exposure.

Depending on the relevance to the company you’re representing, you could even offer insights or commentary about recent games so that your posts don’t seem like empty promotion. Even if the post is from a company that doesn’t directly relate to college basketball, a post that shows someone actually watches the games before getting on social media could go a long way toward getting attention in the trending lists.

Adapt with the Action

One of the big challenges with marketing around March Madness is that there are a lot of teams that go through a bracket in a fairly short period of time. The games are often unpredictable, with quite a few major upsets and surprises popping up each year. It’s difficult to come up with a marketing plan that covers the entirety of March Madness just because you never know how things will go until each game is underway.

If you’ve got someone in your office who is really into NCAA basketball, though, it’s possible to stay on top of the latest changes and post about them as they happen. If you wait until the next day or just jump on the biggest trends, your marketing might fall flat. But if posts and adaptable promotions reflect the fact that someone is right there with the fans as the action unfolds, more fans will embrace your content. That’s great for you and your clients, since it means your message really has fans’ attention.

Promote Around Local Teams

March Madness includes a lot of teams, and not all of them are from big-name schools. You’ve got big names like the Kentucky Wildcats and the Michigan Wolverines that everyone knows, but also competing are teams like the Bucknell Bison, the Cal State Fullerton Titans and the Murray State Racers. Is a local college team getting a shot at March Madness this year? Focus your promotions around local pride instead of trying to target the whole tournament itself. You’re sure to get a great response from the surrounding community.

Host Viewing Parties

One last way to capitalize on March Madness is to partner with bars, local restaurants and even event centers and try to organize viewing parties for some of the big games. Fans (and even potential clients) will come together to join in the fun, and you and your clients will reap the benefits of sponsorship.

It’s a great place to hand out swag and tie in other promotions as well. While some of these parties may take a bit of effort to pull together, the end result is generally well worth it.

March Madness is one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year, and incorporating it into your marketing strategies can energize your message. Keep the promotions and tie-ins natural, and you can harness the excitement of the tournament to bring more potential customers to your brand.